ACT Health begs Canberrans to stop using the Emergency Department for non-emergencies


ACT Health’s Director-General Dr Peggy Brown, is urging Canberrans to save the Canberra Hospital Emergency Department (ED) for genuine medical emergencies following a succession of extremely high numbers of patients presenting to the ED.

“This time of year is typically a busy time for Canberra Hospital, however activity is particularly high at the moment with 1436 presentations to the Canberra Hospital ED in the last week,” Dr Brown said.

“This is an average of 205 patients presenting per day. During August we saw a total of 11,395 people present to the ED for treatment and already in September we have seen over 5,720 people present.

“ED presentations are growing at a rate that is higher than the overall population growth in Canberra and this is placing enormous pressure on resources that are primarily utilised to treat those experiencing urgent medical emergencies,” Dr Brown said.

ACT Health is encouraging people with non life or limb threatening injuries to use alternative services such as:

  • Community Pharmacist – your local pharmacist is qualified to give you expert advice on many health issues;
  • healthdirect – call 24 hours a day seven days a week on 1800 022 222 for free expert advice and reassurance;
  • Walk-in-Centres – for one-off treatment of minor illness and injuries for those over the age of two, see a specialist nurse seven days a week. Walk-in Centres are located in the Belconnen and Tuggeranong Community Health Centres and are open from 730am to 10pm daily;
  • GP surgery – for ongoing comprehensive health care for everyone, including those with acute problems, children under two years and those who have complex medical problems, your GP is your best option;
  • CALMS – 1300 422 567, the call centre is open weeknights from 6pm and all day weekends and public holidays, with CALMS clinics open from 8pm; and
    National Home Doctor Service – 137425, from 6pm weeknights to 12pm on Saturday and all day Sunday and public holidays. All National Home Doctor Service after hours GP home visits are bulk billed.

“There are two Walk-in Centre’s in the ACT and both centres provide treatment by a specialist nurse who can treat minor illness, injuries and other non-urgent health complaints. There are after-hours options available for people who require non-urgent medical treatment outside normal business hours and I encourage people to use the services such as CALMS and the National Home Doctor Service.

“Information about the current level of activity in both the Calvary and Canberra Hospital ED is available at People who still wish to attend the ED are encouraged to view this information prior to attending, particularly as waiting times may be longer than desirable.

“Of course, if you are seriously ill with a genuine medical emergency, you should always call 000 or seek treatment through the ED. If you are unsure if your condition requires emergency medical intervention, you can seek advice through Healthdirect, 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 1800 022 222,” Dr Brown concluded.

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5 Responses to “ACT Health begs Canberrans to stop using the Emergency Department for non-emergencies”

  1. September 18, 2014 at 11:47 am #

    Some of this advice is dangerous and has probably been written by bureaucrats rather than clinicians.

    • John Griffiths
      September 18, 2014 at 11:53 am #

      What would you advise Bob?

      • September 18, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

        It’s not my job to advise and if it were this wouldn’t be the forum to do so. People do use the ED services inappropriately but taking this advice could delay people’s access to appropriate and expert care when their conditions are acute and time critical. The guidance provided should have been much more succinct and not assume that the public has medical knowledge that permits them to carry out their own triage.

  2. September 18, 2014 at 8:30 pm #

    If ED determines that emergency care is not required…gee, it wd be nice if there were an appropriate adjacent service for people to be referred to, wouldn’t it?
    The info in the article seems to be taken from the info at:
    CALMS is good but expensive. There’s no mention of after-hours GP services such as Ginninderra Medical Centre, which, in our experience, is quite good (+ on-site pharmacy). Nurse-led walk-in centre info is confusing in terms of what they can/can’t do, eg: “The nurses in the WiC can supply medications for conditions that fall under the WiC scope of practice. They are not able to provide a written prescription. There are some Nurse Practitioners within the Walk-in Centre who can prescribe a limited number of medications. The nurses …are not able to provide medications or prescriptions for chronic health conditions.”

    • John Griffiths
      September 18, 2014 at 8:40 pm #

      Thanks Karina, the information in the article is pretty much as provided by ACT Health, but the wisdom of the comments is always appreciated!

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