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Christmas care around the clock at Calvary


In his 25 years as a doctor in the Emergency Department, Calvary Wakefield’s Sharad Pandit has seen just about every type of injury and illness come through the front doors – and this Christmas he expects it will be no different.

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From food poisoning caused by those prawns on the Christmas lunch table, to the elderly patient having respiratory problems and the three-year-old who rode her new tricycle into the rose bushes and cut her head – anything and everything is possible.

As South Australia’s only private hospital with a 24/7 emergency department, Dr Pandit and his team are gearing up for what they predict will be another hectic period.

“I often work the night shift and as the other private EDs close by 10pm it gets quite busy in here,” he said.

“That is especially so at Christmas because people don’t want to wait in the public EDs so they are quite happy to come here, get things sorted and go home.”

Dr Pandit said that at Christmas time a lot of GPs’ practices were closed, so numbers through the Wakefield Street doors swelled as people come to the ED to get help.

“We generally see 45 to 50 patients a day and during Christmas that can vary. Christmas morning is usually not that busy but as the day progresses generally things start getting busier and Boxing Day is busier again.”

He said a bonus for people presenting at Calvary Emergency was the short wait time of on average “less than 15 minutes”. Despite the holidays, the hospital continues to have specialist surgeons and physicians on call, together with 24-hour pathology, Xray and blood bank services, which means the level of care remains unchanged.

While many of the doctors and nurses have their own families, Dr Pandit said there were never any grumbles from his team about having to work at Christmas.

“We are here and we are happy to look after people.

“For me personally, this year I work on Christmas Eve, on Christmas day I sleep, have some food and then come back to work again. But I love it!”

Across the city, fellow doctor Matthew Hooper will also be donning his scrubs and working on Christmas Day.

As director of the Intensive Care Unit at Calvary North Adelaide, Dr Hooper will be looking after those who are critically ill, including cancer patients who may need urgent medical assistance.

Dr Matthew Hooper at work in the ICU at Calvary North Adelaide.

More than a year ago Dr Hooper was responsible for developing the RALI (Rapid Assessment of Leucodepleted Infection) program at North Adelaide, a unique service offered to Calvary’s Oncology and Haematology patients.

As he explained, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy are susceptible to infection that can “take hold quickly”.

However, through RALI they are able to be directly referred to the ICU for treatment – something offering them real peace of mind at Christmas time when it can be sometimes difficult to contact their regular medical specialist.

“When someone is immune suppressed and they have a fever or just feel mildly unwell then that’s the point they can come directly to the ICU,” he said.

“With infection, the longer they are without good treatment and antibiotics, the worse the outcome. Using the existing referral pathways we have created a pathway of managing these people 24/7, regardless of whether it is Christmas time or not.”

Statistics also show that being able to treat the infection quickly means the time the patient needs to stay in hospital is “significantly reduced”.

General manager of Calvary Wakefield, Juanita Ielasi, said Calvary was proud of the diverse services it offered South Australians – with the traditions of care and compassion instilled by the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary always at the forefront.

“Whilst a hospital is the last place you would choose to end up over the festive season, sadly for some they will need this service,” she said, adding that every effort was made to embrace the spirit of Christmas.

“In the lead up to Christmas we have schools come in and sing carols, and there are also Christmas services. Each ward is also decorated in a different Christmas theme.

“On Christmas day patients have a special Christmas meal and then they like to spend time with relatives so we facilitate that us much as possible, depending on how well they are.”

Ms Ielasi added the holiday period was “particularly busy” with more and more people choosing to undergo elective surgery at this time.

This year’s festive celebrations at Calvary Wakefield will be tinged with nostalgia as they will be the last at this site. From July next year the transition to the new Calvary Adelaide Hospital on Angas Street will begin, with the rehabilitation facilities moving towards the end of 2019.

The state-of-the-art facility will have a 344-bed capacity, with 16 operating theatres and a 24-hour emergency department.

The new hospital will create 50 new jobs and will offer orthopaedic, cardiac, neurosurgical and rehabilitation specialties. Patients will have single rooms with ensuite bathrooms while a rehabilitation wing will offer a hydrotherapy pool and mobility garden.



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