A warning to the public that the Ballarat Base Hospital emergency department was 'very busy' on Tuesday has triggered a flood of stories to The Courier from disgruntled patients who are concerned with the state of health care in Ballarat.
Dozens have shared what they describe as 'horror' experiences in the emergency department while others have shared stories of 'fantastic' care - but all all show sympathy for medical staff who are ‘run off their feet’.
The common theme is an alarming concern the 'overwhelming' pressure on health care services in Ballarat is leading to poor health outcomes.
A Ballarat resident, who asked not to be named, drove her son to another public hospital when he was injured at work two weeks ago after hearing they could be waiting more than three hours at the Ballarat Base Hospital emergency department to be seen.
"The lady next to me at the Ballarat emergency department had been waiting since 9.30am that morning, it was now 12.30pm, and the lad sitting next to her said he had been sitting there since the same time," she said.
The staff were overwhelmed at Ballarat. There is no doubt about it.
"The cue was from the counter to about four people back from the entrance door inside the building. They were banked up with ambulances as well. I had surgery recently and being on crutches and unable to sit or stand long without pain medication, so there was no way I could sit there for three or four hours."
After spending about half an hour at the Ballarat Base emergency department waiting room, the resident decided to drive her son, who was in pain with a suspected fractured ankle, to Maryborough Hospital.
"We were immediately taken into a treatment room and he was organised with pain medication, x-rays, ice and they elevated the foot. The total period of time at the Maryborough Hospital would have been about two hours from start to finish," she said.
She said her son had not been given ice, pain relief or told to elevate his foot at the Ballarat Base Hospital emergency department.
"The staff were overwhelmed at Ballarat. There is no doubt about it," she said.
"I would have driven him to whoever was prepared to see him. As a mother you do what you have to do, but it does show that the system is lacking severely. I think Ballarat has grown so much in the last three to four years but I don’t feel the services have matched that."
A tweet from Ballarat Health Services on Tuesday encouraged members of the public to consider seeing a general practitioner instead of presenting to the emergency department if their condition was not an emergency.
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
But many seeking medical help feel like they are left with no where to turn as they are told their general practitioner has no appointments available for up to two weeks, and patients face long waiting times at walk in clinics.
The disgruntled resident has had her own nightmare experiences with the Ballarat Base Hospital since having surgery on the bone near her knee in December.
She described 'serious problems' with her back and leg two days after the surgery, felt her concerns were dismissed by staff and was then discharged after four days in hospital before she had been able to stand up or walk.
"They were definitely needing to free up beds, I heard that quite commonly. I can’t understand why they would have been trying to discharge me when I hadn’t been standing up and walking," she said.
She said it was later discovered at a rehabilitation centre that she had been discharged from hospital with a bleed in her leg and complications from the surgery that damaged discs in her back.
"The services are just not adequate. It is not the staff. Every staff member I had care for me provided an adequate level of care, but when I was raising issues with them they had nowhere to go with it and had no response to it because they were just so under the pump to push people out," she said.
"I think with what is moving ahead in Ballarat and the population growth, planning is certainly not matching it."
Ballarat Health Services executive director of acute operations Ben Kelly told The Courier in January the increasing demand on the emergency department was ‘challenging’.
Ballarat Health Services data reveals the emergency department experienced an 8.4 per cent increase in patients in December 2018 compared to December 2017.
A Department of Health spokesperson told The Courier in January the Rural Workforce Agency Victoria would investigate any issues in the town.
Ballarat Base Hospital was contacted for comment.