OUR SAY: A sore finger or a headache is not really an emergency

Hospital emergency departments are among the most hectic workplaces in any city.

The unpredictability of when, and how many people will present, the limits on structuring a working day into any semblance of order and the chaos of a room filled with people in pain combine to make them high energy spaces.

But the knowledge that some people shouldn’t be there adds a frustration for staff and an unnecessary stretch on resources.

The Western NSW Local Health District has embarked on a public education campaign aimed at asking people with minor injuries that can be treated by their local doctor to stay away from casualty wards.

But it is not just a case of putting Keep Out signs on the hospital doors.

You can turn to the The HealthDirect Australia telephone advice line.

It is staffed by registered nurses 24 hours a day and aimed at non-urgent cases.

Simply put, if your finger is not broken, just cut or sore, call the advice line or go to your doctor.

It’s pleasing to see this week’s Bureau of Health Information figures indicating that it appears to be working.

In October-December 2016, despite the total number of patients visiting Orange hospital’s Emergency Department going up, the number of non-urgent cases presenting went down.

It fell from 2115 people presenting in 2015 to 1906 in 2016.

That follows a similar improvement in the previous quarter, July-September 2016, where the number of non-urgent cases going to casualty was down by 130 people over the same period the year before.

A Local Health District spokesman said staff were pleased by the result which they hoped continued to become a trend.

“The reduction in [non-urgent] presentations is encouraging to see,” he said.

In a climate where health funding is harder to obtain, and where staff are under increasing pressure to work to budgets, let’s hope the trend continues.

And it is hoped that it translates to even better care, and faster response times, for the true needy people presenting to emergency departments – those that are actually sick or seriously injured.

At least in Orange the signs are good.

While many patients complain about hospital wait times these statistics are a good reminder that it’s up to all of us to ensure the health system works well.

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