Dubbo hospital lacks resources for ice patients

Inquiry hears ice-related presentations have a “huge impact” on Dubbo’s emergency department.

Dubbo Base Hospital emergency department has insufficient trained staff, treatment options and treatment spaces to handle ice users, its nurse unit manager told the ice inquiry.

NUM Christopher Waters said there were not enough drug and alcohol consultation liaison staff specifically trained in the repercussions of ice use.

“I do not feel there are sufficient treatment options available in the ED to address ATS-related [amphetamine-type stimulants] presentations,” his witness statement said.

“We have some options, but there is a lack of facilities.

“We do not have anywhere to put ATS users who do not require mental health treatment.

“There are no specific wards for these patients, and therefore some patients end up remaining in ED for an extended period of time.

“Better security and a specific facility/room for ATS users would improve the management of ATS users.”

Dubbo hospital is in Western NSW Local Health District where methamphetamine-related hospitalisations were 40 times greater than the state average when last measured a decade ago.

At the inquiry’s Dubbo hearings, Mr Waters said Ice-related presentations had a “huge impact” on the ED’s ability to meet its KPI target to see, treat and discharge patients within four hours. Sedation alone could take up to eight hours.

Patients in the ED had waited for as long as four days for a referral to a mental health bed or a drug and alcohol bed.

He said he had seen a “huge prevalence” of ice use in the LHD and around 25 people he first met when he moved to Dubbo two years ago had since died as a result of ice.

“In just the past two weeks, two known Ice users under the age of 35 have passed away due to overdose and comorbidities.”

Mr Waters said he had been assaulted by ice-affected patients many times.

At the hospital in the week before he gave evidence, seven police and eight hospital staff were needed to control one ice-intoxicated man weighing about 80 kilograms.

“It is an amazing drug and it brings this incredible strength, and people ended up getting hurt.”