A $1.8 million expansion of the emergency department (ED) at Shoalhaven District Hospital aimed at giving the local community improved access to services has been officially opened.
South Coast MP Shelley Hancock, Kiama MP Gareth Ward joined hospital general manager Ian Power and Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District chief executive Margot Mains in opening the upgrade.
The work includes a new design and layout and new equipment to promote better patient flow and access.
Described as a “welcoming environment”, new treatment spaces are provided to service walk-in patients and ambulance arrivals.
The newly designed triage and inquiries desk is designed to increase visibility of staff. There are four new treatment chairs to service waiting room care and promote early assessment and care.
Three rapid assessment zone bays, where ambulance can drop off patients, promotes the early transfer of care for patients arriving by ambulance.
The work also includes an open and spacious refurbished waiting area which also has a pediatric play area.
In the short time the zones have been in operation there has already been a marked increase of ambulance waiting times being reduced.
Mrs Hancock said the expansion and redesign would enable staff to better meet the needs of patients who present to the emergency department.
“There will be improved access and visibility within the waiting room, as well as additional examination areas and offload bays for ambulance presentations,” Mrs Hancock said.
“The changes to the ED mean more patients will hopefully wait less time to be seen.”
She said the emergency department expansion is part of $5 million worth of enhancements to the hospital in recent months, which comes in addition to the Shoalhaven Cancer Care Centre which opened in late 2013, the addition of a second linear accelerator at the facility and planning for a new multi-storey car park on the campus.
Mr Ward said the Shoalhaven region was experiencing a growing demand for health services.
“The transformation of the ED and the revamp of a number of the hospital’s facilities will help to improve the flow of patients through this very busy area,” Mr Ward said.
“In only a year we have seen a 20 per cent improvement in wait times, as well as an improvement in ambulance patient transfer times, with 94 per cent being transferred to the ED within 30 minutes.”
Both MPs also paid credit to the hospital staff and in particular emergency department staff and NSW Ambulance paramedics for the work they do.
Mr Power said the upgrade was needed to meet an increase in demand.
“We have seen an increase on the number of sicker patients presenting to the hospital particularly over the past 12 months. That is why we pushed for this development to build up some capacity and improve performance,” he said.
“The facility is a much more open and light filled area. It is a better presented area for patients to wait, a better work environment for triage and clerical staff, a much more improved area for us to be monitoring patients as they come in and offloading from ambulance.”
Concerns had been raised with the South Coast Register over the rapid assessment zone being closed from 9.30pm.
“We’ve looked at where our key pressure time frames are and that’s 9.30 through to 10 o’clock. We will continue to monitor that and if we need to make changes or alterations we will,” he said.