THE Hunter’s first private emergency department opens at Gateshead on Monday giving patients the option of paying a $150 fee for service and a likely shorter wait time, or attending a public hospital.
Lake Macquarie Private Hospital’s ED will be linked to the NSW Ambulance Service, which assesses which hospital is best for each patient based on their clinical presentation, as well as other issues such as proximity and demand.
Chief executive officer Ian Maytom said there would be clearly defined ‘‘exclusion’’ criteria, such as major trauma, obstetrics, mental health, and drugs and alcohol.
What they are expecting are more minor issues such as broken limbs, dislocations and sports injuries, but no patient would be turned away in an emergency, Mr Maytom said.
‘‘People don’t need to be worried; we will act in their best interests,’’ he said.
If a person presented with a broken arm that required surgery, and they didn’t have private health insurance, the hospital would help arrange for their treatment at a public facility, he said.
‘‘We’d help to arrange transport by ambulance or other means and exercise duty of care.’’
The six-bed unit includes a resuscitation room and is linked to a 12-bed intensive care unit.
It is expected that staff, most of whom have come from the John Hunter Hospital, will treat an average 15 patients per day, with a maximum of about 40 per day, Mr Maytom said.
“While private emergency departments are common in some metropolitan areas in Australia, they are very rare in regional areas,’’ he said.
‘‘This is a first for Newcastle and, with the back-up of Lake Macquarie Private’s extensive cardiac, intensive care and surgical services, we are well positioned to be able to provide a comprehensive emergency service for the community 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”