ALARMING STATS: Minor ailments clog Gladstone Hospital
ALMOST half of the visits to the Gladstone Hospital emergency department over the past two years were for minor injuries or illnesses that could have been seen to by a GP, according to Queensland Health's own classification system.
Emergency department visits are broken down into five categories, ranging from Category 1 (immediately life-threatening, to be seen within two minutes) to Category 5 (less urgent, to be seen within two hours).
Of the 29,293 visits to the emergency department made in 2017, 2301 were classed as Category 5, while a further 10,345 were classed as Category 4 - both of which are considered "GP-type" presentations.
Those presentations included toothaches, people looking for help with plaster cast aftercare, and people who left before they could be seen by a nurse or doctor.
The figures mean 43.16 per cent of the emergency department visits made last year were potentially unnecessary.
A similar figure of 46.26 per cent category 4 or 5 presentations was recorded in 2016, including 178 instances of people showing up to the emergency department and no injury being found.
Health Minister Steven Miles said the number of people presenting to emergency departments in Queensland with GP-type injuries was growing.
"At Gladstone Hospital, from July 1, 2017, to February 28, 7990 presentations... could have been treated by GPs or pharmacists and not in the emergency department," he said.
"Our emergency department doctors and nurses work tirelessly to make sure critically ill people are seen on time... they do a tremendous job of taking care of Queenslanders when we're sick.
"If your injury or illness is severe or life-threatening, the emergency department is the best place to be.
"But if it's not, I encourage people to visit their GP if they feel unwell or to call 13 HEALTH, which is available 24 hours a day."
The figures came to light less than a week after The Observer reported one of the few remaining GP clinics in Gladstone to offer full bulk billing services shifted to mixed billing earlier this month.
The news prompted renewed concerns the lack of bulk billing in town would require more people to visit the hospital to receive treatment out of financial necessity.
Most common GP-type presentations to Gladstone Hospital (2017)
- Ankle sprain/strain: 377
- Cut to finger: 252
- Surgical dressings: 239
- Plaster cast aftercare: 159
- Viral infection: 224
- Did not wait: 221
- Wrist sprain/strain: 196
- Knee sprain/strain: 191
- Cut to face: 173
- Foot sprain/strain: 157
- Toothache: 154
- Radius lower end: 138
- Bruised upper limb: 138
- Minor head injury: 138
- Respiratory infection: 138