The Ballarat Base Hospital is encouraging people to visit a general practitioner if their condition is not an emergency instead of presenting to the emergency department, as staff struggle to keep up with an influx of patients.
Ballarat Health Services published a tweet before noon on Tuesday informing the public the emergency department was ‘very busy’.
“Seriously injured and sick people are always seen first, which means people with less urgent conditions may face long wait times to be seen. If your condition is not an emergency please consider visiting a GP,” the tweet read.
Our Emergency Dept is very busy today (12 Feb). Seriously injured & sick people are always seen first, which means people with less urgent conditions may face long wait times to be seen. If your condition is not an emergency please consider visiting a GP: https://t.co/jQHwcWm5Gapic.twitter.com/xrar9j1z5w— Ballarat Health (@BallaratHealth) February 12, 2019
In a statement to The Courier, Ballarat Health Services executive director of acute operations Ben Kelly said the emergency department had seen a spike in presentations in the last 48 hours.
“We have capacity in our subacute and primary and community care services, and are actively providing care, moving patients to the most suitable clinical environment,” he said.
“We are simply openly communicating with our community that there may be longer than normal waits in the emergency department currently. We have provided such communication in the past.”
Mr Kelly told The Courier in January the increasing demand on the emergency department was ‘challenging’.
We are simply openly communicating with our community that there may be longer than normal waits in the emergency department currently.Ben Kelly, Ballarat Health Services
Ballarat Health Services data reveals the emergency department experienced an 8.4 per cent increase in patients in December 2018 compared to December 2017.
“The demand is a challenge for us no doubt. We continually look to see how we can ensure adequate patient flow to enable access and there are days which are more challenging than others,” Mr Kelly said in January.
“Those times the public can be found to be waiting a little longer than we or they would like, but we continue to manage the demand based on the severity of the illness.
“We look forward to the redevelopment to deliver a brand new and expanded emergency department in the years to come. We need to work through strategy in the shorter term to ensure we can keep up with that demand.”
Emergency department volunteers said the number of patients coming through the department was increasing week on week.
READ MORE: Wanted: calm in emergency
The 2018/19 state government budget included $461.6 million for hospital upgrades including a new emergency department and at least an extra 100 inpatient beds.
The state government expects the upgrades will provide the capacity for 18,000 more emergency patients to be seen at Ballarat Base Hospital per year, the equivalent of 49 more patients a day.
Works at the hospital are expected to be ongoing for almost a decade, with a completion date of 2026.
A further $297.85 was promised in the lead up to the November state election, $27.62 million more than the previous year to increase services and capacity.
The investment reflects the growing demands being placed on Ballarat Health Services. Its catchment population is expected to jump by 20 per cent in the coming decade.
A 30 year draft master plan for the hospital was released in June last year.
At the time, Mr Fraser said the master plan was catering to healthcare increasingly for people from beyond Ballarat, with one in three daily visits from people in Melbourne’s outer western suburbs like Ballan and Bacchus Marsh.