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Health alert: COVID-19

COVID-19 Alert: We are currently at AMBER traffic light level - there are moderate rates of community transmission in Queensland. See visitor restrictions and the latest Queensland Government information. [10 November 2022].

Emergency Department

at Princess Alexandra Hospital


PAH Emergency Waiting Area sign

Interpreter IconDo you need an interpreter?
We can provide a free interpreter service. We use fully accredited professional interpreters for all medical appointments. If you would like an interpreter, please let us know when you arrive.

On arrival

When you arrive

Please go to the reception counter. Patients who are most sick are seen first. This is called a “triage system”. You will be seen by a triage nurse who will talk to you about why you have come to hospital and work out how quickly you need to be seen.  It is important to let the nurse know the following information:

  • Name
  • Date of birth 
  • Why have you come to hospital 
  • If you have been overseas recently 
  • If you need an interpreter

You will then be seen by an administration officer. They will ask for your personal information.  This will include:

  • Medicare details
  • Address
  • Next of Kin
  • GP details
  • Phone number

Read more about how emergency departments work.

How long will I wait? 

Your wait time will depend on how sick you are. Based on your first assessment you will be given a category according to how serious your condition is: 

  • Category 1: Life-threatening patients e.g., very serious injury or a heart attack.
  • Category 2: About to be life-threatening patients e.g., critical illness, very severe pain, serious chest pains, difficulty in breathing or severe fractures.
  • Category 3: May be life threatened patients e.g., severe illness, bleeding a lot from cuts, major fractures, dehydrated.
  • Category 4:  May be serious patients e.g., less severe symptoms or injuries, such as something in the eye, sprained ankle, migraine, or earache.
  • Category 5: less urgent patients e.g., minor illnesses or symptoms, rashes, minor aches, and pains.

A doctor or nurse will see you as soon as they are able. When they are with you, they may have to step away to treat another patient who requires immediate care. This will not affect your care, though it may mean a longer stay with us. 

Do you need an interpreter?

We can provide a free interpreter service for patients at our emergency departments. 

It is our policy to use fully accredited professional interpreters for all medical appointments. Family or friends are usually not able to accurately translate complex medical information.

If you would like an interpreter, please let us know as soon as you arrive.


During my stay

Can I get pain relief medication?

Yes. Even if you are in the waiting room you can still request pain relief medication from the waiting room nurse.

What to expect during my stay in the Emergency Department 

Your care will often start with an emergency nurse. The nurse will assess your condition and symptoms before the doctor will see you. 

Emergency department staff work as a team. Your treating team can include doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, social workers, and mental health clinicians.

As part of your assessment, you may need further tests to find out what is wrong. This could include blood tests and x-rays. We will discuss a treatment plan with you.

We encourage you to ask our staff questions if you need more information or if you don’t fully understand.
What happens after your consultation will depend on your medical condition. You may need to:

  • see a specialist doctor
  • be admitted to the hospital
  • be observed for a while longer by medical staff
  • get treatment e.g., a plaster cast or stitches
  • get a prescription for medication
  • be transferred to another hospital for specialist treatment. 

How much will my stay in Emergency Department cost?

Emergency medical treatment is free to Medicare card holders. You may have to pay for services if you do not hold a Medicare card.

If you are a visitor from a country that has a Reciprocal Health Agreement with Australia, you can access emergency medical care free of charge.  You will need to show your passport or reciprocal health care card.

All patients may need to pay for additional services such as prescription medication given to you when you leave, dental services, and television hire. If your hospital stay is longer than 35 days, you may be charged an accommodation fee. This only happens if you are staying in hospital, but you no longer require acute care e.g., you are awaiting placement in a nursing home.

If you have any questions or concerns about fees, please ask your nurse.

Can I use my private health insurance?

When you are admitted to the PA Hospital you can elect to use your private health insurance and be treated as a private patient.

Private patients can be treated by a doctor of their choice if that doctor has a right to private practice at the hospital. You can request a single room if your health fund policy covers this. We cannot guarantee that a single room will be available. Single rooms are kept for the very ill or people who have a condition that could spread to others.

If you choose to be treated as a private patient, you will be provided information about any costs.

Can I leave and come back? 

If you are not present in the waiting room when your Doctor / Nurse come to find you, this may increase your wait. If you must leave, please ask the waiting room nurse. You will be asked to leave a contact number.

Can I smoke whilst in hospital?

No. Smoking and vaping is banned at all hospitals and 5 metres beyond their boundaries. Please ask your nurse if you would like nicotine replacement therapy to assist with any cravings. You can also ask to go outside to smoke.

What are my rights whilst in hospital?

The Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights describes the rights that you can expect when receiving health care.

For more information please see the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights.

Where can I find Emergency Department patient information sheets?

The Emergency Department patient information factsheets are designed to help communication about your condition. You may also be given a printed copy of the relevant information sheet.

What do I do if I am getting worse?

Talk to a nurse or doctor about your concerns. If you are not happy with the response, talk to the nurse in charge of the shift. If you are not happy with this response, phone 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) or ask a nurse to phone for you. When you call you need to request a Ryan’s Rule Clinical Review. You will need to provide the following:

  • Hospital name
  • Patient’s name
  • Ward and bed number (if known)
  • Your contact number

A nurse or doctor will undertake a Ryan’s Rule clinical review of your treatment. 
Ryan’s Rule is not for general complaints. For more information see Ryan’s Rule.
 

Zero tolerance to violence

We all want to be safe in an emergency. At Metro South Health, we have a ‘zero tolerance to violence’. This includes swearing, verbal abuse, and physical and verbal threats.

If you or you visitors display any of these behaviours, you will be asked to leave.


The Basics

ED terminology

Emergency Departments are busy. There are many people working in the unit and sometimes you may not understand the language used. Below are some of the common words you may hear.

TermDescription
ABGArterial blood gas reading. This is a way to see what is happening in your body.  Like a normal blood test but in a different blood vessel (an artery not a vein).
BP or Blood PressureA measure of how well blood is pumping through your blood vessels (arteries). 
CAT scan (or CT Scan)Computerized axial tomography. These scans provide more-detailed information than a normal X-ray.
ECGElectrocardiogram. measures heart activity.
EEGElectroencephalogram. measures brain activity.
Emergency physiciansVery senior specialist doctors, also known as consultants.
GCSThis scale is used to quickly determine the status and degree of injury of a trauma victim to the head.
Hospital medical officersDoctors working in the emergency department, not training to be specialists
InternsDoctors in their first year of practice
MRIAbbreviation for magnetic resonance imaging. Imaging by computer using a strong magnetic field and radio frequencies.
Nurse practitionersVery senior specialist nurses who can assess and treat selected conditions
PulseA pulsating artery that gives evidence that the heart is beating, usually about 70 times per minute.
RegistrarsSenior doctors working towards becoming specialists.
SepsisA very severe infection.
TriageThe system of prioritizing patients in an emergency situation in which there are a great number of injured or ill.
UltrasoundA test similar to an x-ray, but which uses sound waves

 

Hospital map

See PA Hospital maps.

Where can I charge my phone?

There is a phone charging station available in the ED waiting area. If you need your phone charged while inside the ED, please ask your nurse for help.  

Where can I get food and drink? 

There are several cafes located on the PA Hospital premises. If you have a family member or carer present you can also order food via a courier service (e.g., Uber eats).  You will need to arrange to meet the provider at the entry to the waiting room. Meals will be served to patients who have an extended length of stay in the hospital.

When will the Doctors visit?

Doctors are always in the emergency department. When your assigned doctor finishes their shift, a detailed hand over of your case is given to the doctor taking over your care. 

Where is the nearest pharmacy? 

PA Hospital has a pharmacy department. This pharmacy is only able to dispense prescriptions that have been written by the hospital. There are many other pharmacies in the area. They can be searched for on the Find a pharmacy website. The postcode for the PA Hospital is 4102.

What is the ED phone number?

Patients can be contacted via Switch – 3176 2111.

Can I ask to see a Chaplain?

Chaplains offer spiritual support and pastoral care to patients, visitors, and staff. Please ask our staff if you wish to see the Chaplain.

Can I have visitors? Who can stay with me?

Visitors (family / carers) can attend the Emergency Department with you as long as there are no current COVID-19 restrictions. Please see the visitor restrictions for the latest information as these can change due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Visiting hours

Visiting hours are generally from 10am – 8pm for the hospital.  However, these do not apply for family / carers who are staying with someone in the ED.

Parking

Parking is available onsite. See information on the drop-off zones and carparks.

Blankets / pillows

If you are cold and require additional blankets or another pillow, please ask your nurse.

Before you leave

  • Make sure you understand your diagnosis and any follow up treatment and recommendations. Feel free to ask extra questions or seek clarification.
  • Make sure you know when to return to your doctor (e.g., GP) and the course of action if your condition does not improve.
  • Ensure you receive a discharge letter to take with you to your GP.
  • Let your doctor know if you need a medical certificate.
  • Please remember to take any belongings (including medications) home with you.


After my stay

What follow up is required?

Your doctor will advise what follow up is required after you have been in hospital. A letter will be given to you on discharge.

How do I get home?

You will need ask someone to pick you up or take a taxi home. Ambulances are only for emergency situations and the Emergency Department staff cannot issue cab charge vouchers. 

Where can I find information on medicines?

Your local community pharmacist and GP can answer questions about medicines. You can also find information on the websites below:

How can I provide feedback?

At Metro South Health, we want to give you the best care. We would like you to tell us about your healthcare experience. We want to know when we are doing well and when we are not doing well so that we can make things better.
All feedback is confidential, and you don’t have to tell us your name if you don’t want to.

You can provide your feedback online, in person, over the phone (3176 2111) or via email - PAH_PLO@health.qld.gov.au.


Emergency Department at other hospitals and centres

Last updated 31 October 2022
Last reviewed 28 October 2022