Building works to improve Warrnambool's undersized emergency department are a step closer, with management on the cusp of engaging builders.
The Warrnambool Base Hospital is scheduled for a $384 million redevelopment, but because such a major project won't be finished for at least four years, temporary measures are required for the ED.
The department has come under increasing pressure in the past year, with government statistics and patient testimony revealing long and often extreme wait times. South West Healthcare chief executive Craig Fraser said the health service was working hard to improve patient flow in the small space.
"The challenge is being able to do the works but be able to keep the ED operating now, and also being mindful that in a few years' time we're going to have a brand new ED," Mr Fraser said.
"So it's one of those ones where it's a compromise where we are trying to do as much as we can within the physical constraints we have."
SWH appointed COVID coordinator Sue Anderton to oversee the improvement program in December and Mr Fraser said there were several different changes he hoped would bear fruit.
"We are trying to work out how we can get a fast track area so that we can increase the speed of people who are going through who aren't as complex or high acuity, as well as fixing some of the waiting room issues and freeing up space in the ED itself" he said.
"But because we are dealing with such an old building we are having problems trying to change things because it could impact the integrity of the (building's) structure. So we think we are getting to a point now where we can talk to builders and get moving with that."
Mr Fraser said there were also workflow changes that would bring patients through the ED and onto the wards more quickly, as well as recruitment efforts to bolster the under-pressure staff.
"We are trying to recruit more specialist doctors into our ED and training up more staff and nurses into that ED space," he said.
"I'm obviously an optimist and would hope to see some change very soon. In fact we've already seen some positive change already. Now that may not be in the data necessarily, but we would hope to see some substantial change in the next couple of months, and that will depend on some of variables like recruitment and the demand coming into the ED."
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