NT Health authorities have declared a “code yellow” for the Royal Darwin Hospital for the third time this year, which will once again delay some surgeries, due to overcrowding issues.
Health Minister Natasha Fyles made the announcement Thursday afternoon citing a “peak in hospital capacity”.
But the Opposition said the latest instance is not “isolated” and the larger overcrowding problems at RDH need to be addressed immediately to stop the constant cancellations of surgeries.
Ms Fyles urged patients who have non-emergency health needs to see their GP if they feel sick.
She also said category two and three elective surgeries have temporarily been postponed and that affected patients will be contacted immediately with a new surgery date.
She did not give figures as to how many patients will have to wait for their procedures.
She also did not mention a date as to when the most recent “code yellow” will be lifted.
“A code yellow enacts a number of practices to allow the hospital to closely manage the peak until pressures ease,” an NT Health statement read.
“Patient safety is a priority and the dedicated staff at RDH work hard to ensure Territorians continue to receive the best patient centred care possible in these periods of high demand.”
Ms Fyles did not specify a reason for the latest increased pressure on the hospital.
“RDH has been managing its occupancy very well … but over the last 48 hours it’s seen an increase,” she said.
“A decision was made this morning to call a code yellow, and that allows the hospital to defer some surgery so that we can focus on those urgent cases.”
She also dismissed claims of staff shortages at the hospital as a factor for declaring the “code yellow” status.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) previously warned in June that RDH could experience a peak in demand at least once a month unless the Territory’s hospital budget is increased significantly.
AMA NT president Dr Robert Parker previously said the Federal Government should intervene in the NT’s health crisis and inject more public hospital funding into the NT.
According to NT Health operations and surgical procedures, category one surgeries need to be performed within 30 days; category two within 90 days; and category three must happen within 365 days.
Nearly half of surgical procedures done by the Top End Health Service (TEHS) are emergencies.
In February this year, a “code yellow” was also declared but NT Health authorities did not inform the public. The situation lasted about 48 hours.
Just last month, RDH was again placed under code yellow as “the hospital has been under pressure for the last 10 days”, NT Health said.
Opposition calls on government to explain plan for dealing with constant overcrowding at RDH
CLP Health critic Bill Yan criticised Health Minister Fyles for not being transparent about the emergency declarations and its impacts on Territorians.
He urged Ms Fyles to “front up and explain to Territorians what’s caused the latest code yellow”.
He also said, “these are clearly not isolated incidents as the Minister would want us to believe”.
“Some sources within Health I have been in contact with say it is a result of an increase of mental health patients needing treatment and not enough beds for mental health services which then compounds an already overloaded A&E at RDH,” Mr Yan wrote on his social media account.
“Minister Fyles should tell us what impact the Palmerston Regional Hospital is having on trying to manage and maintain bed flows and be open and transparent about how many patients are affected by cancelling elective surgery, how long will they be cancelled and when will they resume,” he added.
Mr Yan called on the Gunner Government to tell Territorians how they “plan to deal with the shortage of beds crisis and how they will manage these emergencies in the future.”