Campbelltown Hospital emergency department swamped by record number of patients

Busier than usual: Campbelltown Hospital’s emergency department director Richard Cracknell. Picture: Anna Warr
Busier than usual: Campbelltown Hospital’s emergency department director Richard Cracknell. Picture: Anna Warr

Spare a thought for the staff at Campbelltown Hospital’s emergency department.

On a normal night they are flat out caring for Macarthur residents in need of urgent medical attention.

But during July, August and September this year, that level of busy skyrocketed to “record” levels.

Almost 2300 more people walked through the door during the three month period compared to the same time last year.

“It was a crazy time,” South West Sydney Local Health District emergency network director Richard Cracknell said.

“We had eight of our busiest weeks ever in terms of emergency department presentations at Campbelltown Hospital this winter.

“We would set a record one week, then set a new record the next week, then set a new record the next week. It would just keep going.

“We were absolutely under the hammer.

“It was just weeks and weeks of unrelenting activity.”

The number of patients presenting to the department has increased steadily each year.

But Professor Cracknell said there were two main reasons for the large spike during the 2017 winter period.

“We had a combination of infectious outbreaks,” he said.

“We had a bad flu outbreak that was much worse than what was predicted. And we also had the misfortune of a gastro outbreak.

“Residents in nursing homes in particular were affected by the gastro outbreak.

“Because they were infectious (diseases) we (staff) had to take extra care of ourselves too.”

Despite the influx of presentations Professor Cracknell said the staff managed to handle the situation with aplomb.

He praised all those who were called upon during the three-month period.

“Episodes like that really test out the team but they worked like a well-oiled machine,” he said.

“They pulled together, took care of the patients and took care of each other.”

Thankfully, Professor Cracknell said, the number of emergency department presentations was now back to a normal level.

“Sadly there is no such thing as quiet but we are back down to normal. That frenetic activity has taken a step back,” he said