How do I know when to go to Emergency?

#YourHealth Ballarat Health Services
Friday 2 October 2020

Ballarat Health Services is reminding the community of the available resources for non-emergency medical advice and treatment.

This year when we were required to stay at home Ballarat Health Services saw a dramatic decrease in the number of people coming to the Emergency Department for help 

As COVID-19 restrictions have easedthe demand on the Emergency Department has increased again, and often with non-emergency (non-acute) injuries or illnesses.   

Why is this?  Well, our research shows there are a number of reasons why people choose to come to Emergency, when they don’t need to.  Continue reading to learn more about when and how to get non-acute help. 

I’m not sure if it is an emergency  

A medical emergency is a serious injury or illness that means a person’s life or long-term health is at immediate risk.  In short, if that person does not get urgent medical help they may die or may develop a more serious health issue. 

The Emergency Department is open for patients seeking urgent medical care and treatment, with staff available to assess, treat, stabilise and begin to manage the conditions of those who present with a serious illness or injury.  

This could include: 

  • Chest pain or tightness 
  • Sudden numbness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg 
  • Large burns 
  • Serious accidents or trauma 
  • Severe bleeding 
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Extreme pain 
  • Unconsciousness 

Emergency is my only available option 

It’s important to determine whether your condition is actually an emergency (acute). 

The Emergency staff need to assess each person who comes into the department, and then determine who needs to be seen most urgently (this is called triage).   

If lots of people with non-urgent issues come in, then everyone has to wait longer. 

Knowing where else you can receive medical information or assistance if your injury or illness is not an emergency will save you time in the waiting room 

For non-emergency medical attention, there are many other options available to you, many of which are free, or can be bulk billed: 

  • Call Nurse on Call – 1300 60 60 24 
  • Book in with your local General Practitioner (GP) 
  • Visit an after-hours medical clinic 
  • Talk to a pharmacist 
  • Visit https://covid-19.digitalhealth.gov.au/ 

If I get an ambulance, I’ll be seen quicker 

No matter how you get to Emergency, all people going through the same process. They are triaged, and the most unwell are seen first. 

The Emergency Triage (reception) area is staffed by highly trained nurses. They determine how seriously unwell you are.  The time you wait will depend on how many seriously ill people arrived before and after you. 

When do I call an ambulance? 

In a medical emergency, calling for an ambulance can mean the difference between life and death. Ambulance Victoria is available for initial assessment and transfer to hospital for emergencies. 

If you are unsure whether your situation qualifies as an emergency, you can call Triple Zero (000) and the people who take your call can help direct you to appropriate resources. 

Calling an ambulance does not mean that you will automatically be seen first. It’s important to note that all persons who visit our Emergency Department are assessed on arrival, and those who need most urgent attention will be seen first. 

If your injury or illness is not serious, there are other resources that may be able to assist you. 

Where else can I go? 

For non-emergency medical attention, you can: 

  • Call Nurse on Call – 1300 60 60 24 
  • Book in with your local General Practitioner (GP) 
  • Visit an after-hours medical clinic 
  • Talk to a pharmacist 
  • Visit https://covid-19.digitalhealth.gov.au/ 

Have something to tell us? We welcome all feedback from patients, family members or carers. Tell us more.