News of the plan followed a State Government announcement of ‘improved performance reporting’ for hospitals, which failed to mention it would stop reporting ambulance ramping data. This was reportedly detailed in a Health Department memo obtained by media.
Though it has been reported St John Ambulance will continue to publicly report ramping data, the College is concerned that this will make data harder to find.
ACEM President Dr John Bonning said although the move to include reporting such as transfer of care time in a new online dashboard had merit, scrapping public reporting of ramping data was a step in the wrong direction.
“Ambulance ramping is a major issue in Western Australian hospitals with major implications for patient safety,” said Dr Bonning. “We have already seen instances of ramping linked to patient deaths in other states, which shows just how serious it is.”
Ambulance ramping is when a patient is unable to be taken off an ambulance stretcher, and in some cases remains in the ambulance at the door of the hospital due to lack of a physical space in the emergency department. This ties up the ambulance and its crew, keeping it out of circulation and unable to attend the next emergency.
“Prevalence of ambulance ramping is also a key indicator of system failure, so we question the Government’s motivation in no longer reporting the data. Given the significant public safety concerns associated with ambulance ramping, the public should be kept updated on the extent of the problems,” said Dr Bonning.
The College also notes, that despite the WA Government previously committing to address the issue of long-stay patients in EDs by reporting and acting on 24-hour stays, it has yet to do so. Data on 24-hour stays should be freely published to encourage accountability.
ACEM WA Faculty Chair Dr Peter Allely urged the Government to listen to the concerns of emergency doctors.
“For some time now it has been clear that the Western Australian health system has been going backwards, and ambulance ramping has been a key indicator of that,” said Dr Allely.
“If the Government is serious about improving transparency and accountability, and our healthcare system overall, then we would welcome the opportunity to meet with them to discuss solutions.”
ACEM is the peak body for emergency medicine in Australia and New Zealand, responsible for training emergency physicians and advancement of professional standards. www.acem.org.au