Cough, colds clog emergency room

COUGHS, colds and sneezes are clogging up the Fraser Coast's emergency departments, as thousands of people pour through the doors seeking urgent treatment for minor ailments.

While the number one reason for a visit to hospital was chest pain, the next most common ailments were less likely to be life-threatening – such as patients requiring follow-up care, those with upper respiratory tract infections, viral infections and

those requiring dressing of wounds.

Wide Bay Health Service District executive director of medical services Dr Tim Smart said the recent onset of winter had seen a steady increase of patients presenting to emergency departments with common coughs, colds and other minor ailments.

“Not every patient who attends an ED needs to be admitted, but it is important to rule that out,” Dr Smart said.

“Emergency departments are extremely busy environments where patients are categorised according to their clinical urgency,” he said.

“Patients requiring life-saving treatment will always be seen first.”

In 2010, approximately 36,938 people presented to Hervey Bay Hospital's emergency department, while Maryborough Hospital's emergency department saw 25,528 visits.

About 16% of patients presenting to Hervey Bay Hospital were admitted, with 2% of patients being transferred to another medical facility for additional care.

About 3% of patients who presented to Maryborough Hospital were admitted, while only 7% of patients were transferred to another facility, such as Hervey Bay Hospital.

Dr Smart said medical staff at both hospitals had been kept busy ensuring patients had top- quality care.

“Your local ED should be used for emergencies only and you should visit your GP for minor illnesses such as coughs, colds and other non-urgent visits,” he said.

“It is important to highlight that no patient is ever turned away, but they are treated according to the severity of their condition.”

Dr Smart said Queensland Health had a telephone hotline, 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84), to help take the worry out of health concerns.

13 HEALTH provides health information, referral and teletriage services to the public in all parts of Queensland for the cost of a local call.

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