SA Health will reopen a 25-bed ward at the Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre next month in a bid to ease overcrowding in the state’s hospitals over the peak winter season.
The ward will cater to patients who are out of emergency but still require treatment before going home or to another facility.
It will require an additional 30 nurses and seven allied health staff and will cost taxpayers an extra $2 million.
Another four beds will reopen at Hampstead specifically for patients requiring ongoing wound care.
Winter is one of the busiest times in the health system because of the flu.
Health Minister Stephen Wade said the Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre had been underutilised for “quite some time now”.
He said reopening the ward was not a desperate measure and the local health network had been working on the Winter Demand Plan for months.
“I agree with the representative bodies that we have a challenging year ahead — a lot of these strategies have already been implemented for months,” he said.
“There’s a lot of actions that have been taken up to now.
“This is yet another example of incremental steps that are helping the system cope better.”
A bulletin sent out to all Central Adelaide Local Health Network staff today by chief executive Jenny Richter also mentioned increased capacity for the Hospital at Home program, where nurses treat patients in their homes, and the Metropolitan Referral Unit, which diverts patients from public hospitals to other services.
It also includes using “flex capacity” at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, temporarily postponing some non-urgent overnight elective surgery and discharging patients earlier where possible.
A problem that keeps on getting worse
To alleviate strain last year, elective surgeries were cancelled and some city patients were diverted to country hospitals.
Some of the blame then was placed on people wanting to visit the new $2.4 billion Royal Adelaide Hospital.
A temporary fence was installed last week at the city hospital to hide patients in “ramping” ambulances from public view.
SA Salaried Medical Officers Association senior industrial officer Bernadette Mulholland said overcrowding in Adelaide hospitals was the worst she had seen.
“It’s been building for a number of years,” she said.
“It includes things like ramping, bed block and large presentations of patients within the emergency department.
“We’re hearing from staff who are very upset and angry that there’s been no solution to the winter demand.
“Anyone would have like to have seen this earlier, but having a strategy … is always welcomed and something we’ve certainly been requesting over the last few months.”
She said the peak winter demand was about to hit.
‘We are hopeful that some of these initiatives will reduce the demand on some of the hospital services but we expect it to be still a fairly tough winter,” she said.
She said she would like to see improvements to Modbury Hospital so it could take on more patients and the mental health ward opened to its full extent at the Royal Adelaide Hospital to further ease overcrowding in the state’s hospitals.