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Emergency Department

at Princess Alexandra Hospital

PAH Emergency Waiting Area sign

The Princess Alexandra Hospital provides an extensive range of specialist and sub-specialist medical and surgical services for adults (i.e. 16 years and over). 

Paediatric, or obstetric and gynaecology services

There are no paediatric, or obstetric and gynaecology services at the PAH. For emergencies requiring these services, unless immediately life-threatening, please seek emergency care at one of the following local providers of these services: 

  • Paediatrics: Queensland Children’s Hospital, Logan Hospital
  • Gynaecology: QEII, Mater
  • Obstetrics: Mater 
Is coming to the Emergency Department your best option?

When you are sick, know your choices by going to Emergency Choices to help you choose your options. You can also book a GP appointment online using HotDoc by visiting their website.

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

What do I do when I 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. 

What if I 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

When will the doctor see me?

Doctors are always in the emergency department and will see you as soon as they are able. Patients are seen in order of seriousness of their condition, and your doctor may have to step away while seeing you do deal with an immediate life-threatening condition in another patient. They will return to you as soon as they are able.

When your assigned doctor finishes their shift, a detailed hand over of your case is given to the doctor taking over your care.

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 should I 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 I have to pay for my stay in the Emergency Department?

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.

If I'm admitted, 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 when your Doctor / Nurse comes to find you, this will increase your wait. If you must leave, please ask your nurse. You will be asked to leave a contact number, or you may be asked to speak to a doctor before you leave.

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.

What do I do if I feel I am getting worse?

Talk to a nurse or doctor promptly about your concerns. If you are not happy with the response, talk to the nurse in charge of the shift.

Blankets / Pillows

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

Can I have visitors? Who can stay with me?

Visitors (family / carers) can attend the Emergency Department with you. Visitor numbers are usually restricted to two at a time at the bedside as enough space is needed around the patient to provide safe care. Exceptions can be made in certain circumstances, so talk to the nurse or doctor looking after you.

Visiting hours

Visiting hours do not apply for family / carers who are staying with somone in the ED. The hospital ward visiting hours are generally from 10am – 8pm.

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 or other spiritual support person.

Where can I get food and drink?

There are several cafes located on the PA Hospital premises, including the hospital cafeteria and Starbucks on the ground floor. 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.

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.

If I am discharged, what should I do before I leave?

  • Make sure you understand your diagnosis and any follow up treatment and recommendations. Feel free to ask extra questions, or seek clarification or ask for a patient information factsheet.
  • 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.

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.

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

Refer to the  Emergency Department map (PDF, 823.22 KB)PA Hospital campus maps on how to get here. You will also find additional information on public transport, shuttle bus and parking at the Princess Alexandra Hospital.

How can I contact a patient in the Emergency Department?

Patients can be contacted via their mobile phones if they have them with them. Otherwise, they can be contacted via the Hospital Switch: 07 3176 2111.


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

Is coming to the Emergency Department your best option?

When you are sick, know your choices by going to Emergency Choices to help you choose your options.

You can also book a GP appointment online using HotDoc by visiting their website.

Zero tolerance to violence

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

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

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.

Where can I find information on Indigenous Health?

Mob Link is an initiative of the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in SEQ by linking them with health and social services.

By calling 1800 254 354 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across South East Queensland can access a variety of health and social support available through the IUIH Network and the broader health system.

Mob Link resources

Can I speak to an Indigenous Liaison Officer (ILO)?

If you would like to speak to an ILO please ask a member of staff who will contact them on your behalf.

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. In general, most follow up after your ED presentation is with your GP. Please note that, except for critical problems, the ED medical staff cannot refer you for a public specialist outpatient appointment (including at the PA Hospital). This needs to be completed by your GP.

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:

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.

Where can I find further information about my condition?

The Emergency Department patient information factsheets are designed to help explain your condition and help you manage after you are discharged from the Emergency Department. You may also be given a printed copy of the relevant information sheet when you are discharged.

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 -

After your visit, you will be sent a survey regarding your healthcare experience. For more information, please refer to our 'Patient Reported Experience Survey' information sheet.

Emergency Department at other hospitals and centres

Last updated 31 August 2023
Last reviewed 31 August 2023