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What really happens in an Emergency Department on Australia Day

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As Gold Coast Health’s Emergency Department staff ready themselves for their Australia Day shifts, we revisit a compelling article by The Weekend Australian Magazine’s Trent Dalton, who spent a few hours inside Gold Coast University Hospital’s ED on 26 January, 2014.

For the full story, visit The Australian website.

Heroes work the front line in A&E on another drunken Australia Day

BLOOD squirts onto the foot of the heart monitor in a cross-shape pattern more misshapen than the Southern Cross tattoo on his bare chest.

A nurse in green scrubs quickly and skilfully rebandages a gash across the young man’s lower right bicep so thick and deep that a ball of rootless flesh bounces on an artery pulsing in the open air.

“So, what happened here?” asks Dr Graham Jay, the warm-voiced Englishman in charge of the Gold Coast University Hospital’s emergency department for four more frantic hours until midnight.

You know the story, doc. Celebrating the arrival of the First Fleet, slammed a dozen beers, punched a glass window. Happy Australia Day …

In the triage bay to the right, behind a curtain, lies a young man in a baseball cap. Big teeth, big eyes darting left and right. A nurse removes a thick white dressing from his right forearm to reveal a laceration running from his palm to his elbow. Another punch, another glass window. The nurse screws her face up at the wound and the young man - barely out of high school - smiles. Pride …

(The ward’s clinical nurse consultant, Patricia) Kells makes her long way around the department, co-ordinating staff output, transferring nurse loads for the post-midnight shift. She passes three police officers. One is a hospital liaison officer who works largely out of the hospital morgue, assisting the state coroner; the other two are here to help hospital security staff with the increased Australia Day activity.

“It’s extremely busy and full of intoxicated people,” says Kells. “A typical Australia Day. More drugs and alcohol out there in the community. More things to fix.” …

Jay, at the queue spreadsheet, is calmly answering questions nurses throw at him. The drunk man in acute barks at staff. “Excuse me! Excuse me!” he screams. “Could someone ... sesssssssssist me ... pllllllllease.”

Jay must be spatially aware of his ward. He knows the drunk man in acute can wait. He knows the men on gurneys in the foyer have been seen. He knows the bat bite victim is getting his vaccine. He knows there are 20, 30 more patients in the queue who can wait just a little longer this Australia Day night.

Last updated 20 Dec 2016