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Emergency Department

The Emergency Department at Ballarat Health Services aims to provide you and your family with high quality care as efficiently as possible.

You will be treated as soon as possible but someone who arrives in the Emergency Department after you, may be seen sooner if they require treatment more urgently.

The emergency staff understands that attending an Emergency Department can be stressful.

Our aim is to treat all patients with the best possible care, but at times delays occur because of increased needs of seriously ill patients.

Ballarat Health Services Emergency Department sees more than 53,000 patients per year, 27 per cent of these patients are paediatric.

All patients presenting to the Emergency Department are assessed on arrival to determine the urgency and severity of their condition. Patients requiring urgent care (including those arriving by ambulance) are classified as category one and seen immediately.

Patients classified as less severe and classified as category two patients, should be seen within ten minutes, category three patients should be seen within 30 minutes with category four and five patients classified as less severe, will wait longer for care.

Although this may seem frustrating for patients waiting to be seen, it does ensure that those people in the most urgent need are seen in the shortest possible time

On arrival at the Emergency Department your first contact should be made at the Triage area.


On arrival, your treatment starts when you see a specialist emergency nurse called the triage nurse.

After you are assessed by the triage nurse, you may be asked to wait in the waiting room.

How long you wait depends on how busy the department is and the number of patients whose conditions are serious and require more urgent attention.

Avoid food and drink

It is important that you do not eat or drink before being seen by a doctor. You may need a test or procedure that requires you have an empty stomach before hand.

If you have eaten it may lengthen your stay. Ask the Triage nurse if you have any questions.

Things to tell the Emergency Department staff

The Emergency Department staff may not be aware of your medical background; to find out they ask many questions.
Sometimes, this needs to be done by more than one health care worker.
To help staff assess and treat you, tell them about:

  • Any health problems you have had;
  • All drugs and treatments you are using;
  • Allergies;
  • Any recent trips overseas;
  • If you are pregnant or breastfeeding;
  • Any other facts you think staff should know about.

Admission to hospital from the Emergency Department

If emergency staff believe that the best way to care for you is to admit you to hospital, they will advise you as soon as possible. Because your admission is unplanned, it may take some time for a hospital bed to be ready.

Sometimes, the emergency staff may need to transfer you to another hospital for your treatment. Until then, you are cared for in the Emergency Department.


Having family or friends with you can ease the stress, so family and friends are welcome. They should feel free to help with your care however, for safety reasons, only one or two visitors are allowed in the department at one time. The emergency staff may ask your visitors to leave during some procedures. Your visitors should also respect the privacy of others.

Telephone issues

Enquiries about patients are welcome and can be made by phoning the hospital. One person should make the call and then inform other family members and friends. It is important to limit the number of calls because the department is busy and telephone calls take staff away from caring for patients.

Mobile phones must be turned off before going into the Emergency Department, as they may interfere with hospital equipment.

If you ring switchboard, and request to speak to the Emergency Department, they will put you through to an extension and a recorded message will advise you of the options available. Switchboard staff are not expected to provide clinical advice or triage phone calls.

Telephone advice - ED policy re NURSE ON CALL

The Victorian Government has set up Nurse On Call, an excellent initiative that allows people to ring up 24/7 and get health advice. This advice is given in a consistent fashion by qualified staff using up to date clinical pathways, and is audited.

NURSE-ON-CALL 1300 60 60 24

The ED staff are advised to refer all requests for health advice to the nurse on call service, unless the call is concerning a patient in the ED. In the past staff have spent a large amount of time on the phone dealing with general enquiries. This takes them away from caring for patients in the ED. Nurse-on call advises people whether or not to see a GP or go to the ED. Our staff can now focus their efforts on those people already in the ED. Emergency Department staff are unable to advise likely waiting times over the phone – the situation can change rapidly, and if people need to ask this question, then usually the problem is not an emergency.

Going home

When you are discharged from the hospital, you are given advice about follow-up care.
This may include:

  • Patient information pamphlets
  • Drugs or prescriptions
  • Appointments for further tests
  • Outpatient appointments
  • A letter for your local doctor
  • Certificates

Please make sure that you have any medical certificates, Work Cover or Transport Accident Commission (TAC) certificates, and any other information that you need before leaving the hospital.

Making A Suggestion / Complaint

If you or your relatives have any positive or negative issues regarding your treatment, ask the nurse or doctor looking after you.
Balancing the needs of everyone in an Emergency Department is a complex and delicate task. Sometimes patients feel their needs may not have been fully met.

If you have had an unsatisfactory experience, there are feedback forms available at triage or contact our Clinical Risk Management Coordinator on 5320 4014 to discuss your concerns. Refer to Patient/Client Feedback.

Things to remember

  • Patients are treated according to urgency not in order of arrival.
  • Staff do the best they can to make your stay as short and as comfortable as possible.
  • It is important that you do not eat or drink before being seen, because you may need tests or procedures that require you not to eat or drink beforehand.
  • Mobile phones must be turned off before going into the treatment area, as they may interfere with hospital equipment.

Code of behaviour

A code of behaviour exists to ensure a safe and friendly environment for patients, visitors and staff. No acts of violence, swearing, threats or verbal abuse towards another patient, relative or staff member are allowed.

An initial warning is given, but if the behaviour carries on staff, security or the police will ask the person to leave. Refer to Patient Rights and Responsibilities.

Safeguard your valuables

It is best to ask a friend or relative to look after your valuables while you are being treated in the Emergency Department.

Despite efforts by hospital staff, theft remains an issue. The hospital will only take responsibility for items that have been formally receipted for safekeeping in the safe.

Education patient/visitor

Ballarat Health Services' Emergency Department have a range patient information sheets, which are available in hard copy in the Emergency Department.
The Better health channel provides plain language patient information sheets as well. These are available using the link below:

Service area

The Emergency Department has a catchment area of about 200,000 people. Approximately two thirds of patients seen live in Ballarat, with the remaining patients living in the Grampians region.

A small number of patients are treated from outside this region, for various reasons.

Emergency Medical/Nursing Training

The emergency department is accredited for provisional training and advanced ACEM training (12 months), and for paediatric log book training. Rotations are available to Intensive Care and Anasethetics; O&G and medical rotations can be arranged in consultation with Medical Services.

Emergency education website: free - no password needed


The Emergency Department has an active research program.

Our main area of interest has been the role of CT in diagnosis of scaphoid fractures.

(Follow the links below for further information).

We currently supervise Advanced Medical Science Unit medical students from the University of Melbourne.

We also run projects involving emergency registrars, including training in research methods, appropriate for the ACEM 4.10.70 requirements.

We have had success in recent years in the following areas

  • Rapid Appraisal Toolkit
  • Combined medical & nursing notes in the ED
  • 24/7 learning online
  • Clinical Pathways for Community Acquired Pneumonia
  • Early CT for scaphoid fractures
  • Implementation of CPG: CT for scaphoid fractures
  • Interobserver reliability for CT in scaphoid fracture

For further information on research go to the following links: