Health, ambulance service post record results as satellite hospitals deliver

Published Saturday, 10 February, 2024 at 01:51 PM

Minister for Health, Mental Health and Ambulance Services and Minister for Women
The Honourable Shannon Fentiman

  • Queensland Health posts record-breaking December quarter results for emergency department presentations, elective surgeries and ambulance call-outs.
  • New satellite hospitals reduced non-urgent presentations to emergency departments by more than 13 per cent. 
  • Queensland Ambulance Service recorded 3,849 Triple Zero (000) calls during the busiest day of a heatwave in December.
  • Despite an increase in QAS Code 1 and 2s 3,000 more patients were off-stretcher within 30 minutes compared to this time last year.
  • Patients waiting longer than clinically recommended for elective surgeries fell significantly as hospitals delivered more procedures.

Queensland’s healthcare system has absorbed the challenges of surging emergency department presentations, a heatwave and rising demand for ambulances to post record-breaking hospital performance results, according to new data released today.

Figures on hospital performance for the December 2023 quarter show almost 582,000 people were treated in emergency departments between October and December, marking the busiest December quarter on record.

Demand for ambulance services also increased, compounded by natural disasters and heatwaves, with an additional 12,000 Code 1 call-outs, 6,000 in December alone.

Despite the rise, emergency departments managed to treat all Category 1 patients within the clinically recommended time of two minutes and outperformed NSW and Victoria for the overall number of presentations seen in time (74 per cent). The median wait time for all presentations was 15 minutes (an improvement of one minute).  

And in promising news, between July and the end of December, an additional 3,000 patients were transferred from ambulances to an emergency department bed within 30 minutes, with POST improving from 56.8 per cent in the September quarter to 57.1 per cent in the December quarter.

QAS also improved its Category 1A response times across the quarter, even when contending with a spike in Triple Zero (000) calls from heatwaves during December.

It clocked an impressive 3,849 Triple Zero (000) calls on the busiest day of a heatwave in December – above the average of 3,200 calls it receives a day.

The results coincided with a plummet of more than 13 per cent in the number of non-urgent emergency department presentations (Category 4 and 5) in locations where Queensland’s five new satellite hospitals are now operating.

Around 20,000 people visited a minor injury clinic at the Ripley, Caboolture, Kallangur, Redlands or Tugun satellite hospitals to receive treatment for non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries, with more than 90 per cent of patients staying for less than four hours.

Tugun’s minor injury and illness clinic recorded the shortest average length of stay (93 minutes), followed by Redlands (96 minutes).

New satellite hospitals at Eight Mile Plains and Bribie Island are scheduled to open later this year to provide additional support to nearby emergency departments.

Data on satellite hospitals is now being published quarterly, in line with other data on hospital performance, such as elective surgeries. 

A total of 36,673 elective surgeries were performed between October and the end of December, which is a record number in a December quarter.

Despite the rise in elective surgeries, hospitals still managed to ensure more than eight in 10 patients were treated in time – a 3.5 percentage point improvement – while the median wait time for surgery fell to 39 days (an improvement of two days).

Meanwhile, the number of patients waiting longer than clinically recommended for surgery fell by almost 40 per cent.

During the same period, 173,006 patients had their first specialist outpatient appointment (a 7.5 per cent increase), while patients waiting longer than clinically recommended for appointments fell by 0.8 per cent. 

The latest data follows the release of the Commonwealth’s Report on Government Services, which shows Queensland is outperforming the national average in the key areas of emergency department presentations, bed numbers, positive patient experiences and elective surgeries.


Quotes attributable to the Minister for Health, Mental Health and Ambulance Services and Minister for Women Shannon Fentiman: 

“Despite burgeoning demand, Queensland’s hospitals continue to stand up and deliver world-class healthcare to the community.

"The record-breaking December quarter shows Queensland Health is reducing overall wait times, performing more elective surgeries and treating more patients than before.

“I heartened to see improvements in key health metrics, despite the ongoing pressures on our hospitals.

“These strong results are testament to our wonderful health workers who are delivering exceptional care to Queenslanders.

“We operate the busiest and the best ambulance service in the country and yet it still managed to improve its response rate in the December quarter.

“More emergency department patients are being seen in time, while hospitals delivered 1,674 more elective surgeries and 12,008 more specialist outpatient appointments than the same quarter in 2022.

“The improvements demonstrate the importance of our satellite hospitals, which provide tailored healthcare to their local communities while taking the pressure off nearby EDs.

“The five already opened – Caboolture, Redlands, Ripley, Kallangur and Tugun – are proving invaluable and are receiving very positive feedback from patients.

“These results are also evidence our plans are working, especially our $764 million Putting Patients First and $224 million Planned Care Recovery programs.

“Initiatives like expanded emergency department spaces, short-stay units, transit lounges, and strengthened allied health services are ensuring more people are being treated and released quicker, easing the pressure on hospitals.

“By strengthening our capacity to carry out planned care, more and more Queenslanders are getting the surgery they need to live healthier, more comfortable lives.

“Queensland continues to rank among the best performing health jurisdictions in the nation, a fact supported by independent audits including the Report on Government Services.

“I’m aware there is more work to do, particularly with regard to patient off stretcher times, but I am confident our investments will continue to help improve what is already a world-class health system.”