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Bimberi incident places further strain on hospital ED

The major incident at Bimberi Youth Justice Centre on Monday night 26 August made a significant impact on the ACT hospital system’s capacity to handle emergencies.

Canberra Hospital’s Emergency Department (ED) was already at capacity before having to deal with the presentations resulting from this incident.

Four Bimberi staff were taken to the Canberra Hospital, while three more were presented at Calvary Public Hospital, Bruce.

The staff transferred to Canberra Hospital presented in a stable condition, and left by midnight. The staff treated at Calvary had relatively minor injuries.

At 8pm that night, as the incident at Bimberi was unfolding, Canberra Hospital called a code brown, an external disaster code that is activated when an ED is notified of potentially large numbers of patients coming by ambulance.

Measures were put in place to deal with that impact, which included Canberra Hospital ED going on ambulance bypass at approximately 8.30pm for two hours.

Over 100 patients were waiting for medical attention at the Canberra Hospital ED at approximately 3pm on Monday 26 August, several hours before the Bimberi incident.

CEO of Canberra Health Services, Bernadette McDonald, told ABC Radio Canberra’s Breakfast on Tuesday 27 August that in the days preceding the incident, Canberra Hospital’s ED had been extremely busy.

“We do get a back-up in the emergency department … things were a little slower than they should have been to get the patients out of the ED.”

Minister for Youth and Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said she was confident in Canberra Health Services’ capacity to deal with more serious accidents involving multiple injuries in the future.

“The opening of surge beds and capacity, they do have a number of responses to incidents they put in place depending on what that incident is.

“Hospitals being under pressure and experiencing periods of high demand is not unusual around the country; we certainly see in other jurisdictions much more regular instances of management strategies like ambulance bypass.”

Ms McDonald said she is confident the hospital can respond to more serious accident or incidents than the one seen at Bimberi.

“Last night (26 August) when I left, we had created about 40 extra beds so we did have capacity overnight, we still did have capacity that we could use.”

She said Canberra Hospital have staff that are well equipped and trained to respond to emergencies.

“We have system-wide emergency management practices for the whole of the ACT, we also liaise with other jurisdictions, NSW, Victoria, if we needed to transfer people out, which does happen.”

Ms McDonald encouraged Canberrans who aren’t extremely unwell or don’t require the services of an ED to consider other options, like walk-in centres that are available until 10pm every night.

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