Doctors from the Royal Adelaide Hospital’s emergency department are drawing attention to overcrowding issues during an industrial action, wearing T-shirts bearing slogans such as “we need space to keep you safe” to demand action for patients and staff.
The Central Adelaide Local Health Network has tried to get the employment tribunal to ban health workers from wearing the shirts.
Staff say the issues aren’t isolated, with delays felt across the entire hospital sector.
In one case, a woman was left waiting five hours on the floor of the Flinders Private Hospital, while at the Lyell McEwin Hospital, a 92-year-old woman was forced to wait outside in freezing conditions.
Bernadette Mulholland from the South Australian Salaried Medical Officers Association, a doctor’s union, said frontline health staff were “trained to provide emergency care, not disaster care”.
“We can’t continue to flog the staff we actually have,” she said.
Mulholland said a major issue was the need to discharge patients who required disability support but were waiting on suitable accommodation.
There are 35 patients still in South Australian hospitals still waiting on assistance.
“Sometimes we are hearing that they can be in the hospital for months/ They are not acutely unwell; this is a hospital for acutely unwell patients,” Mulholland said.
The union received calls from both the South Australian premier and the health minister last night, saying they were willing to listen to concerns.
“My message to these doctors is that we stand with you and if there is something that you want to see happen that is currently happening then my government is the one willing to look at it and action it,” Premier Peter Malinauskas said.
He said he had no issues with the T-shirts.
Mulholland said other doctors in emergency department hospitals had approached the union about wearing the shirts but only Royal Adelaide staffers would be wearing them as a sign of good faith.
“It’s not to say that other emergency departments aren’t doing it tough,” she said.
Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson will meet with members of the union on Tuesday.