Emergency presentations taxing

TASMANIAN Health Organisation North chief executive John Kirwan says getting patients into beds will remain a challenge as demand at the Launceston General Hospital keeps rising.

The LGH had a record 44,723 emergency department presentations last year, up 3.6 per cent from 2012 and 21.6 per cent from 2008.

There was also an increase in raw separations (admitted episodes of patient care) with a total 39,801 last year, up 14.7 per cent from 2010.

Mr Kirwan said that while emergency department performance was improving, getting patients into hospital beds remained a challenge.

``We run at 80, 90, 100 per cent capacity most of the time, which means that when there's a surge in the ED it builds up capacity,'' he said.

``Our challenge really comes when we have two or three or more days of surge in a row.''

Mr Kirwan said the LGH now saw surges in demand year round, when they used to see a few at certain times each year.

``We have seen a lot of access issues and other problems this month, where you would normally not see that,'' he said.

Mr Kirwan said staff had managed admirably, but it was clear the hospital needed further changes if they were to meet demand.

``We have to change our models of care, we have to be clever in how we move patients through the system . . . we need to get patient flow right and in some cases to increase capacity to meet demand,'' he said.

Mr Kirwan said the improvement of eHealth systems, and the completion of a new intensive care unit and surgery theatres would help - as would a proposed  $70 million-plus ward upgrade.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, emergency presentations rose 2.5 per cent across Australia last financial year, with the largest increase in Tasmania (3.8 per cent). 

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