Are Emergency Department Wait Times Acceptable?

Earlier this week ABC News posted an article discussing the increasingly long wait times for emergency departments and the impact it has on patients who need urgent help. The article states “Nearly one third of patients waiting for a bed for over eight hours in emergency departments had presented with acute mental health issues”. This is a topic Artius Clinical Psychologist, Bart Traynor, has experience with. Read below to hear what Bart has written about his thoughts on the subject.

“Reflecting on any article in the media must always be treated with some scepticism, after all, the primary goal of a headline is to attract someone to read the article- it is a form of marketing. I also question the accuracy of any statistics as they are often more a case study of one or two peoples experiences more than being a valid representation. Having said that and having experience in working with mental health assessments in the hospital and emergency department setting, the essence of this article highlights some very important points. We need to do more for those children and adults who experience severe mental illness and are in crisis as there is often nowhere for them to go.

Emergency department staff are incredible and asked to help us at our most vulnerable and when we are at most risk. We cannot expect them to be experts at everything. Mental illness is very complex, cannot be seen physically and cannot be determined via a blood test. Assessments often also take significant time, especially if drugs or alcohol are also involved. We need to do things differently.  We need a safe place for this to be undertaken and more places that offer short stays for consumers to receive the support they need. 

We definitely want to continue to encourage those who are unwell to be managed in the community and do not want to return to the days of psychiatric institutions, but surely there is a case for making more spaces/ beds available in appropriate places for those who need short term assessment and support when in crisis with their mental health.”

We think this article is worth a read. You can check it out here.