Move to ease ambulance ramping strain at Hervey Bay Hospital

A NEW system is designed to ease pressure at the Hervey Bay emergency department, after it became so overcrowded that staff were forced to treat patients in the back of ambulances.

"Less serious" emergency patients presenting at the hospital will now be transferred to Maryborough to reduce ambulance ramping - a term used for the practice of patients being treated in ambulances outside the hospital due to a shortage of beds.

The extent of ambulance ramping at the Hervey Bay Hospital came into the spotlight in February last year when angry paramedics came forward to the Chronicle.

They were outraged by Fraser Coast Health Service operation executive Andy Froggatt's assertion that ramping did not occur at Hervey Bay or Maryborough hospitals.

"It is rubbish, it happens every week and sometimes every day," one paramedic told the Chronicle at the time.

The paramedics feared ramping was putting patients' lives at risk - but that was denied by Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service chief executive Phillipa Blakey on Monday.

" ... Sometimes (patients) need to remain on an ambulance trolley until a bed can be made available," she said.

"At all times they receive the expert care they need from emergency service staff."

Ms Blakey said work had also already begun on a "clinical decision unit".

"The development of a clinical decision unit and the introduction in the near future of a patient transporter to move less serious patients to Maryborough will create capacity in the hospital and reduce ambulance ramping."

She said work had already begun on the refurbishment of an area of the hospital for the unit.

The five new beds will add to the 18 currently in the emergency department and four "short stay beds".

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