Record-breaking day in Cairns Hospital Emergency Department

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Far North Queenslanders unable to attend GP clinics on a public holiday have contributed to the busiest day in history for Cairns Hospital’s Emergency Department.

The ED experienced its busiest day in history on Monday, 3 May 2022, with a total 314 presentations in just 24 hours.

This eclipsed the previous record set on 16 February, 2021 by 10 per cent.

Overall, there was a total 86,138 presentations to Cairns Hospital ED during 2021, which is greater than 10,000 compared to the previous year.

Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service Executive Director Medical Service Dr Don Mackie thanked staff for working hard over the long weekend.

“We had a constant stream of people walking into the ED and presenting with injuries and illnesses, alongside a significant number of patients brought in via Queensland Ambulance Service,” he said.

“We managed the flow very well throughout the day, which is a credit to our staff and our internal processes.”

Dr Mackie said Far North Queensland, like many regions across Australia, was suffering from a chronic GP shortage.

“This certainly isn’t helped by a lack of clinics open on weekends and public holidays,” he said.

“We simply ask that if you have a non-urgent health issue, please reconsider attending our Emergency Departments.

“There are still community pharmacies and after-hours GP clinics that may be able to assist you.

“If you are unsure, call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) or visit

“At the end of the day, you won’t be turned away from an ED, but those in greater need of emergency treatment will always be prioritised.”

Cairns Hospital Director of Integrated Medicine, Linda Bailey, said to plan for future growth, there were immediate and medium-term solutions rolling out during the next year to alleviate pressure on Cairns Hospital’s ED.

“This includes a $26.4 million expansion of the ED, for which early construction started in August last year,” she said.

“This program will deliver new treatment spaces and improved capacity for resuscitation and isolation, redeveloped waiting facilities and improved access to X-Ray within the ED space.

“Our health service also has an ‘Access to Care Project’ which is a clinically led program looking at improvements for addressing patient flow across the hospital.

“This program includes initiatives such as redesigning the model of care for medical patients; early senior clinical decision making; improving patient flow; and improving our ED mental health services.”