Emergency Departments, Ambulance Ramping and Pathology

15022_0325There has been a lot said about ambulance waiting times, or ramping, and the impact this has on those who are in need of emergency medical care. Blame has been put at the feet of hard-working yet overworked Emergency Department (ED) staff or their failure to properly triage as ED fills up. And these staff are, apparently, also to blame for ambulance ramping.

But too little is said about how underperforming pathology services, particularly with respect to turn-around-times for pathology tests are directly contributing to delays in processing patients through Victoria’s Emergency Departments. It’s also important to understand that it is not possible for staff to move patients out of ED without first knowing what’s wrong with a patient and being able to determine the treatment that patient needs.

Hence, if a hospital has an underperforming pathology service it will almost certainly have an underperforming ED, particularly in relation to length of stay standards.

Approximately 85% of patients have at least one pathology test performed on them when they are admitted to the hospital or treated in the Emergency Department. Pathology is a vital clinical service in any acute care public hospital which plays a central role in a patient’s diagnosis and treatment.

Research shows that delays in returning pathology test results for EDs has a direct impact on the length of stay in the ED. The faster that a test result is known the sooner a patient’s treatment can be started ie the person is admitted to the hospital or discharged from ED.

And the longer the turn-around-times are for tests the more likely it is that hospitals will fail to reach the benchmark for lengths of stays in ED, resulting in funding penalties. It is becoming evident in Victoria that many hospitals with pathology services outsourced to a private provider are among the worst of those failing to meet length of stay requirements for their EDs.

The Union is currently working to better understand how pathology turn-around-times are impacting Emergency Departments in Victoria’s public hospitals.

Are you finding it harder to process tests from ED? Are you finding that clinicians are demanding faster turn-around-times for tests from ED?

If you have any information to share, the Union wants to hear from you. Contact us on enquiry@msav.org.au or by calling (03) 9623 9623

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