It is clear Launceston General Hospital staff have reached a breaking point.
Saturday night's attempt to activate code yellow is surely evidence of this. Used for "internal emergencies", code yellows are reserved for events that adversely affect service delivery and/or safety. They require an immediate and co-ordinated whole-of-hospital response and shouldn't be taken lightly.
However, it is not unprecedented for overcrowded emergency departments to also act as a trigger. Continued staff requests to use the emergency code at the Royal Hobart Hospital were becoming almost a daily event before escalation protocols were adapted to include a fourth level in 2017. But this has not occurred at the LGH, despite ongoing calls from unions. It is also despite the fact that the LGH spent 70 per cent of time between June 2018 and January 2019 at level three of its three-level escalation protocol.
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation Tasmania says the demand on the hospital's resources and staff reached an "unprecedented level" on Saturday with one patient waiting six hours short of a whole day for treatment. Clinicians tried to escalate the level of operation to help ease the stress, however, they say the request was denied or "shut down".
As Tasmania Health Service North-North-West operations executive director Eric Daniels rightly says, the disaster code is not designed for patient flow management - a code yellow is traditionally not the appropriate action.
But it appears staff members are resorting to desperate measures to ensure their patients receive the best possible care in a health system weakening by the day.
The union says the numbers experienced at the weekend in Launceston are the "new norm", as are the terrible conditions facing staff. This includes treating admitted patients in the emergency department, in lieu of available beds.
The state's hospital staff are doing a wonderful job under the circumstances, but it's clear something needs to change. This is not good enough. Not for the staff at the hospital or for the patients.