Emergency with a difference


The John Flynn Private Hospital Emergency Department reviewed its procedure ahead of the Commonwealth Games. ORM takes a look at what a typical day looks like behind those doors.



“A typical day is never the same,” Dr Ben Walters, Director of Emergency at John Flynn Private Hospital, says. “You must always maintain a constant status of readiness for what may come through the doors, the number of presentations or what challenges you face – that’s the specialty.” As an ambulance arrives, Dr Walters informs us that the John Flynn Private Hospital Emergency Department, while busy, had readied itself for the recent Commonwealth Games. The hospital reviewed and rewrote its disaster plans, prepared equipment, rostered extra staff and also built the necessary links with the other healthcare facilities on the Coast and remained at a state of heightened readiness.

“As it happened, there was a reduction in presentations across all hospitals on the Gold Coast, but what is important was that we were prepared,” Dr Walters says. This preparation and coordination will form part of the legacy of the GC2018 Games.

“People were very Games-focused, but we still had people going into labour, people still had heart attacks, people still had bad falls and needed emergency treatment, at home and at the events themselves,” he says. 



In Private Emergency, the level of care and service is maintained, with every patient presenting being seen by a senior emergency specialist.

“There is a lottery of experience when patients present to a public hospital,” Dr Walters says. “At John Flynn, we offer continuity. Patients receive a management plan that is comprehensive and may involve admission, specialist treatment or follow-up with a GP. We can often refer to another specialist in a specific area who knows the patient, their history and previous investigations. This is particularly important if you have an ongoing medical problem.”



Patients are able to return to or communicate with the Emergency Department with the specialist who they saw to clarify and make further plans. Patients also have prioritised access to medical imaging and pathology, meaning fast turnaround times, and also access to the 24-hour pharmacy on-site.

There is a common stigma that it’s expensive to visit the private hospital emergency department; however, Dr Walters disagrees. “John Flynn Private Hospital is arguably the cheapest private hospital in the country,” he says, adding that they will also submit the patient’s Medicare rebate post-payment. 

When asked how many bad days he experiences, Dr Walters takes a positive approach.



“You can have a ‘bad day’ for lots of reasons: overwhelming patient load, critically unwell patients or just a series of complicated cases,” he says. “Emergency staff work under a lot of pressure. It may be hard work and stressful at the time, but when you reflect on the meaningful impact your care has made to a number of patients’ health and wellbeing, these actually become your ‘good days’.”