Courtenay triage may be permanent

SHABNAM DASTGHEIB
Last updated 05:00 19/01/2012
Luke Appleby

Wellington Free Ambulance has established a permanent presence in town on weekend nights to deal with problems in order to reduce strain on front line medical services.

Courtney Place, Wellington
CRAIG SIMCOX/Fairfax NZ
HELPING HAND: Wellington Free Ambulance paramedics transport a drunk woman to their Courtney Place triage centre to be treated.

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Drunken fights, falls and accidents have been the main focus of paramedics working at Courtenay Place's trial triage centre, which looks set to become a permanent fixture in the central city.

The centre was set up temporarily last year to free up frontline ambulance services and relieve pressure on Wellington Hospital's emergency department.

Wellington Free Ambulance is in talks with the council and ACC to establish a permanent centre for Friday and Saturday nights.

During the trial, staff dealt mainly with drunken assaults, falls and alcohol-related incidents, a service which hospital staff say took pressure off them on the busy weekend nights. Staff also treated cuts, bruises, injured kitchen staff from nearby bars and people who were medically unwell or elderly.

Community care and patient delivery manager Robert Ives said the operation had been successful in what it had achieved and he hoped the plan for a permanent one would soon be approved.

"We are working on a business case that will hopefully be successful and recommend that we have a permanent safe city project, at least for the next 12 months."

Wellington Hospital charge nurse manager Lee Allsop said the triage centre acted like a "stitch in time", which eased the demand on emergency department staff.

"It has meant the people who are coming to the hospital absolutely need hospital treatment."

But, she said, hospital staff were still treating a concerning number of patients with alcohol-related injuries at weekends.

Mr Ives believed demand for the triage services would increase during the warmer months. "I'd like to think that in the next six weeks we will be hearing whether or not it is likely to go ahead, but you know what red tape and things are like."

The issue of funding had not yet been discussed.

Council city safety projects officer Laurie Gabites said the centre made sense in terms of safety in the city and reducing pressure on the hospital emergency department. "We certainly would support Wellington Free Ambulance if they decided to establish a more permanent triage."

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown spent a night with the ambulance staff in Courtenay Place last year and said she was delighted that they were looking at a permanent base.

"I think their presence is a real contribution to the safety of downtown Wellington. They can deal with minor cases and reduce the burden on A&E."

By the numbers

  • During the 12-week trial:
  • 114 cases were treated
  • 72 of those cases were aged 18-25
  • 90 cases were alcohol-related
  • Only three people were aged over 61

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