Sydney hospitals are experiencing ‘worst overcrowding in decades’, treating patients in corridors, ambulance carts

From January to the first week of May this year, there were 86 nights when the number of ambulances available to serve the entire Sydney metropolitan area at night – covering Bondi to Katoomba – fell below expected levels. The service lost at least 23 ambulances one night last month.

“Our resource offer [are] desperately overwhelmed with demand once again,” read a transfer email sent by a senior NSW paramedic to staff. “[There are] long hospital delays at several sites”.

Patients with COVID-19 are showing up at hospitals, occupying beds and increasing pressure on staff.

Patients with COVID-19 are showing up at hospitals, occupying beds and increasing pressure on staff.Credit:Bloomberg

An NSW ambulance manager, who cannot be named as he is not authorized to speak publicly, said paramedics were spending hours waiting outside hospitals including Concord, Prince of Wales, St George hospitals and Royal Prince Alfred.

“Hospitals are running out of beds for people with COVID or suspected COVID cases. Patients are put at risk as the lack of paramedics means there are no breaks and staff often work long hours.

Another senior emergency doctor at a hospital in western Sydney said wards had reached 110 per cent bed occupancy this week, with around a third occupied by elderly patients and the emergency department seeing around 220 at 250 patients arrive every day.

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“Nurses have to be creative in finding places for patients,” the doctor said. “The system survives thanks to good will and staff who show initiative. Hospitals are full of elderly people and people with chronic illnesses, and we are struggling to get them out into nursing homes and NDIS.”

At least two patients had waited more than 30 hours in the emergency room this week before being admitted to the wards, the doctor said.

“There are still a lot of COVID-19 patients tying up emergency departments; people are going out more, there are more injuries and accidents, and we have hospitals desperately trying to catch up with surgery work, ”an emergency specialist told the Herald. “All of these things add up to make things as bad as they’ve ever been.”

“Thirty percent of people who come to the emergency room must be admitted, but they cannot physically leave the department if there are no beds available. This is where crowding comes in. »

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A spokesperson for NSW Health said hospitals were experiencing “sustained high demand for urgent care and admissions to public hospitals, as well as significant unavailability of staff due to COVID-19”.

“All local health districts have well-developed workforce surge and demand management plans in place, and our networked hospital system ensures that patients can be transferred or redirected to other locations. other hospitals, including private hospitals, if necessary.

“In our emergency departments, our patients are still being triaged and seen based on the clinical urgency of their condition,” the spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for NSW Ambulance said the current demand was “on top of the normal workload for paramedics in the community which has now largely returned to pre-pandemic life, with an increase in car crashes , assaults, falls and other calls related to the activity”.

“NSW Ambulance reviews planned ambulance rosters against substantiated demand daily to ensure adequate resources,” the spokesperson said. “Senior operational managers meet twice a day to monitor and manage demand and adjust the operational response accordingly.”

Skinner said it was important that patients “have a serious or life-threatening illness to seek care in the emergency room, and we will do our best to provide the necessary care.”

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