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Industrial action looming after SA hospital crisis meeting

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Industrial action is looming across Adelaide’s public hospital network with unions calling for an urgent “circuit-breaker” to ease demand on emergency departments.

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Health Minister Stephen Wade met union leaders and clinicians today and says the government will work on a number of measures, including opening transit lounges at major hospitals to handle some incoming or outgoing patients.

But the unions representing paramedics and nurses say immediate action is needed to make more beds available across the system and their members will consider over the coming days what action they may take.

“What we need is a circuit-breaker,” Ambulance Employees Association state secretary Phil Palmer said.

“If we don’t do something in the next couple of days, we’re going to end up with another situation like we had this week – a disaster where our members are tied up on the ramps of all the hospitals and the community is not being looked after and there’s lives at risk.”

Palmer has suggested beds be immediately opened at the recently mothballed Repatriation General Hospital to take some patients who weren’t needing acute care.

His idea was supported by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation state secretary Elizabeth Dabars, who said the hospital system was in crisis.

“We are deeply concerned about the safety of patients and indeed the safety of nurses and other health professionals,” she said.

Bernadette Mulholland, from the South Australian Salaried Medical Officers Association, said while the situation had deteriorated, the issues raised today had been discussed for the past six years.

“We are working in crisis conditions on a 24/7 basis every day,” she said.

Wade said the government would look at short-term action to provide relief and would announce a number of initiatives in the coming weeks.

“The fact of the matter is a number of the initiatives will cost money but they will also save money if we’ve got better flow through our hospitals, less ambulances on the ramp and more services delivered in the community,” he said.

“This is not going to be fixed overnight but I was very encouraged by the strong consensus around three or four key projects and we’re keen to roll them amount as quickly as possible.”

– AAP

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