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Emergency Departments

Emergency Departments

For health emergencies call 000

Queensland Health's free public hospital system provides quality emergency care services across the State to people who are seriously injured or ill and need immediate treatment.

Nearly every Queensland public hospital has an Emergency Department, sometimes known as Accident and Emergency, to treat people who have been hurt in accidents or need serious urgent medical care.

This quality care is part of the Queensland Government's commitment to ensuring residents and visitors have easy access to medical treatment when needed.

Emergency Departments are open 24 hours day. They have fully trained doctors and nurses on duty or, in some rural hospitals, on immediate call, to help with medical emergencies.

You don't need an appointment to go to an Emergency Department. If you need emergency medical care, treatment is provided free to current Medicare card holders at Queensland Health hospitals. Charges apply to patients who do not hold a current Medicare Card. Visitors from countries with a Reciprocal Health Agreement with Australia will be provided with emergency medical care free of charge upon proof of citizenship ie passport. You will pay for services if you attend the Emergency Department of a private hospital.

If you have a health concern but it's not an emergency, you can phone 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) 24 hours a day / 7 days a week for help. Qualified and experienced staff will give you advice on what to do and how quickly you should do it.

Things you may need to know before visiting a Queensland Health Emergency Department.

How do I decide whether to go to an Emergency Department?

Whether you go to an Emergency Department will depend on your circumstances and the severity of your injury or illness. It may be a matter of personal choice, depending on how ill you feel.

In cases where an ambulance has been called, the Queensland Ambulance Service paramedics will decide on your care. They may transport you to the nearest Emergency Department or treat you at the scene and request you see your general practitioner for any follow up treatment needed.

If you feel an ambulance is not necessary but you cannot reasonably wait for see your general practitioner and need medical help urgently then you should make your way to your nearest hospital Emergency Department.

No one seeking assistance from an Emergency Department is refused care. However, people with less severe illnesses or injuries will have to wait longer for treatment than people with more urgent medical needs.

What if I need an ambulance?

If you are seriously ill or injured and need urgent transport to an Emergency Department, telephone 000 and ask the operator for the ambulance service.

Some details such as your location etc will be known by the operator through the automated telephone system, but you will be asked for some information. Try and stay calm, and answer the operator’s questions and give:

Once you have given this information the first available ambulance will be sent to you. If possible, while you are waiting, you should gather together items to take to hospital.

Emergency ambulance services are free to all Queensland residents.

It is important that everyone knows how to call for an ambulance. Teach your children how to call 000 and what to tell the operator. Make sure older people know to call 000 if they need help.

Do I need an appointment to go to an Emergency Department?

No. Queensland Health Emergency Departments treat people who are seriously injured or ill and need immediate treatment. Patients are treated on a needs basis – emergencies and severe illnesses take priority over more minor complaints.

Treatment is not provided on a first in, first served basis. While no one seeking assistance from an Emergency Department will be refused care, people with less severe illnesses or injuries are required to wait longer for treatment than people with more urgent medical needs.

What should I take with me to the Emergency Department?

If time and your medical condition allows, it is helpful to take:

You may like to leave a note at home telling people you have gone to the Emergency Department.

How do I find my nearest Emergency Department?

Other help numbers:

What happens when I arrive at the Emergency Department?

If you arrive by ambulance the ambulance officers will take you into the hospital’s Emergency Department usually on an ambulance trolley. You will then be seen by a doctor or a triage nurse. They will ask for your name, contact details and Medicare card and then assess your medical condition.

If you have severe injuries or illness you will be immediately taken to a treatment room for diagnosis and care. If you have less urgent medical needs you will either be made comfortable in a treatment area or asked to go to the waiting area. You will be then be seen according to your medical need.

People who have urgent medical needs are seen before people with less urgent needs.

If you take yourself to an Emergency Department or are bought in by family or friends, you need to go to the Triage Desk or Reception Desk in the Emergency Department. A triage nurse will take your details and then assess your medical condition.

Triage nurses are specially trained in assessing the medical needs of emergency patients. The nurse may take some tests such as your blood pressure, temperature or ask you to provide a urine or blood sample. The nurse uses this information to determine your medical condition and how quickly you need to see a doctor.

The nurse may ask you to give your details to the receptionist before you go to the waiting area. You will be seen by a doctor as soon as possible. People with urgent medical needs are seen before people with less urgent needs.

What is triage?

Triage (pronounced tree-arj) is a medical assessment process carried out by qualified medical staff to see how ill a patient is. This helps them to determine which patients need urgent care.

During triage, patients are given a rating from one to five, with one being patients in need of the most urgent care. Patients with a five triage rating can expect a longer wait to see a doctor than those with lower ratings.

Triage was introduced to Australian hospitals in the 1970s to ensure urgent treatment was given to patients most in need. In the past, patients brought in by ambulance were always treated first whatever the complaint and others were treated in order of arrival. This meant someone brought in by a relative with a severe injury (eg accidental amputation of a finger) had to wait for treatment behind someone who might be seeking relief from flu symptoms. Triage means patients who need urgent treatment are seen first.

Triage ratings

The five triage ratings are listed in the table below.

Triage Rating Description
1

People who need to have treatment immediately or within two minutes are called immediately life threatening patients.

People in this group are critically ill and require immediate attention. Most would have arrived in Emergency Department by ambulance. They would probably be suffering from a critical injury or cardiac arrest.

2

People who need to have treatment within 10 minutes are called imminently life threatening patients.

People in this group suffer from critical illness or are in very severe pain. People with serious chest pains, difficulty in breathing and severe fractures are included in this group.

3

People who need to have treatment within 30 minutes are called potentially life threatening patients.

People in this group suffer from severe illness, bleed heavily from cuts, have major fractures or may be dehydrated.

4

People who need to have treatment within one hour are called potentially serious patients.

People in this group have less severe symptoms or injuries, such as foreign body in the eye, sprained ankle, migraine or ear ache.

5

People who need to have treatment within two hours are called less urgent patients.

People in this group have minor illnesses or symptoms that may have been present for more than a week, such as rashes or minor aches and pains.

What do I ask/tell the triage nurse?

The triage nurse will ask you questions about your medical condition. They pass this information onto the doctor who will be treating you. Tell the nurse:

Feel free to ask the triage nurse any questions you have. Some common questions are:

Why do I need to wait for care?

The triage system is in place in all Queensland Health Emergency Departments and is designed to ensure those in most need of emergency care are treated as quickly as possible. Triage means patients who need urgent treatment are seen first.

You will be seen by a doctor as soon as possible. Remember people with urgent medical needs are seen before people with less urgent needs so you may have to wait for treatment. Even if the waiting room does not appear to be busy, medical staff may be treating patients brought in by ambulance who could have urgent medical needs.

Please be patient whilst you wait. You may wait for a longer period than another patient and this can be frustrating. We understand you deserve to been seen quickly and that you are worried about your or a friend’s/relative’s medical condition. Staff will do their very best to see you as quickly as possible. In times of worry and stress, people may get angry and shout and abuse staff or other people. No acts of violence, threats or verbal abuse towards staff or any other person will be tolerated. Hospitals have security and they will be called to protect staff and patients. Please help us help you by treating others with respect.

What happens when I see a doctor?

If you are in the waiting room, when it is your turn to see a doctor, a nurse or doctor will call your name and then take you to a treatment area or room. They will ask you questions about your injury or illness and will examine you. They may wish to conduct some tests such as X-rays and blood tests, and you may be asked to wait in the treatment area or in the waiting room for the results. A nurse may monitor you or provide treatment at this time. The doctor may also ask a specialist to see you.

After the consultation, a decision will be made about your treatment. If you need admission to hospital, the doctor will arrange for you to be taken to a ward. At busy times this may take some time and you will continue to receive care in the Emergency Department.

If the doctor would like you observed for a while longer, you will remain in the treatment room or be asked to go to the waiting area. You may be monitored by medical staff while you wait.

If you need treatment such as stitches or a plaster cast the medical staff will arrange for this and will give you instructions about ongoing care such as when to have them removed.

In some cases patients are transferred by ambulance to other hospitals for specialist treatment and this will be arranged for you.

You may be given a prescription for medicine. Many hospitals have pharmacies onsite and you may wish to have a prescription filled before you leave the hospital. Alternatively you can use a community pharmacy.

Many of our hospitals have special services to help you. If you are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, are hearing impaired or need an interpreter, please let the staff know so assistance may be arranged for you. Chaplaincy and counselling services are also available.

Before you leave the Emergency Department make sure that you:

If I am brought to Emergency Department by ambulance, how do I get home if I am not admitted to hospital?

If you are brought to the Emergency Department by ambulance, you will need to make arrangements to get home.

Ambulances are free to Queenslanders, but only for emergency situations. While they will transport you to hospital if you are sick or injured, they cannot and will not wait to take you home again.

If you can, tell a friend or relative as soon as possible that you are going to or at the Emergency Department and that you will need help getting home.

Alternatively taxi ranks are situated outside most major hospitals.

What happens if I decide to leave the Emergency Department before being treated by a doctor?

Should you decide, before treatment, that you are feeling better or will go to your general practitioner or another facility, you are free to leave at any time. Before you go please tell the Emergency Department receptionist or triage nurse that you are leaving.

If you leave before being seen by a doctor, the hospital and Queensland Health cannot be held responsible if you become sicker or develop another health problem.

What if I have a compliment or concern about my visit?

We strive to ensure that our patients are happy with their visit and care. If you have any feedback about your visit please let us know:

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Last Updated: 10 April 2013
Last Reviewed: 10 April 2013



Don't Forget
Emergency Departments are busy places and patients are treated on a needs basis – emergencies and severe illnesses will take priority over more minor complaints.

To avoid delays to yourself and other patients in more urgent need, consider phoning 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) for help and advice from qualified staff. Minor illnesses or injuries may need to be treated by a general practitioner or at an after hours medical centre..