Non-urgent presentations place pressure on public EDs

Minister for Health and Ambulance Services The Honourable Yvette D'Ath

More than a third of Queensland’s emergency department presentations are ailments or injuries that could be treated by a GP or pharmacist, latest data shows.

The state’s hospital performance data for the October-December 2020 quarter shows there were 587,301 ED presentations.

All 4,234 Category 1 patients – the most urgent cases – were seen by a clinician within two minutes of arriving, while 77 per cent of all cases were seen within clinically recommended times.

The median wait time for all ED patients to be seen was 14 minutes.

Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Yvette D’Ath said the performance of Queensland’s EDs was sound given the challenges posed by the past 12 months.

“Queenslanders should be assured that if they have the misfortune to fall seriously ill, they are in capable hands, no matter where they are,” she said.

“Patients whose conditions are life-threatening are every ED’s priority and that’s happening in Queensland. Our most critical patients are being seen almost immediately upon arriving.”

Minister D’Ath said between 30-40 per cent of monthly ED presentations were classified as being non-urgent complaints.

“In December alone, almost 76,000 presentations could have been treated elsewhere,” she said.

“Most are legitimate health concerns however they are not matters for emergency department staff whose primary role is to save lives.

“They are being asked to treat splinters, blisters, sunburn and even acne and hiccups. People are turning up asking for medical certificates, prescription refills and immunisations.

“GPs can treat many conditions you might otherwise go to an emergency department for, such as removing stitches, sprains and strains, bites and stings, many viral and other infections, and assessment of prolonged illness or injury.

“No patient will be refused care at any of our hospitals however EDs are for seriously ill and injured patients. Less urgent presentations place unnecessary pressure on the system and, potentially, put the lives of others at risk.”

Minister D’Ath said 36,421 patients underwent elective surgery in the October-December 2020 quarter.

More than 94 per cent of Category 1 patients went into theatre within 30 days of being put on the wait list. Almost 90 per cent of all patients went into surgery within the clinically recommended time.

“Queensland public hospitals have performed exceptionally well given the disruptions they faced in 2020,” Minister D’Ath said.

A total of 226,623 patients were waiting for an initial appointment at a specialist outpatient clinic as at 1 January 2021.

Minister D’Ath said in coming months, Queensland Health will release new reporting that will provide hospital-level patient safety and quality data and comparisons. Also in coming months, Queensland Health’s quarterly reporting will include local performance reporting.

Examples of non-urgent ED presentations in 2020-21 YTD


Attention to surgical dressings and sutures




Medical certificate


Repeat prescription


Nail disorders/ingrown nail


Fractured, loose or impacted teeth


Muscle cramps and spasms




Contraceptive management










Insect bite




To view Queensland Health’s October-December 2020 quarter Performance Data, visit

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