LISMORE Base Hospital insiders say a chronic bed shortage has turned the hospital's brand new emergency department into an overflow site for congested wards.
On Tuesday this week a particularly bad blockage in the hospital resulted in several post-operative patients sent to the ED to recover, according to a health worker who wished to remain anonymous.
The source described the situation as "horrific" for staff and patients, saying it was akin to a "disaster" situation.
Lismore Base Hospital medical staff council chair Dr Chris Ingall said this winter had been particularly bad one for bed shortages.
"It's a chronic state at this point," he said.
Dr Ingall said the optimal occupancy rate for a hospital according to Health Department guidelines was 85%.
"But when you're running places closer to 95-100% full, there is no give in the system. It's great for a hotel, but we're not running a hotel."
Northern NSW Local Health District acting chief executive Lynne Weir confirmed the ED experienced a "large number of presentations" on Monday June 19.
"In response to the large number of ED presentations on 19 June some inpatients, including post-surgery patients, were accommodated in the Emergency Fast Track Unit, which is located adjacent to the ED," Ms Weir said.
"This Unit is not used to accommodate emergency patients overnight, and so was available to accommodate patients overnight on this occasion."
The latest Bureau of Health Information report released today for the January to March 2017 quarter shows that emergency department presentations at Lismore Base Hospital increased by 7.9% compared to the same time a year ago. But Ms Weir noted patients were also being seen quicker, with 76.4% of patients starting treatment on time, a 9.2% increase on last year.
Dr Ingall said the NSW Government's promise to enlarge the new North Tower from four to seven floors as part of the $52 million Stage 3c upgrade was "very welcome".
In the NSW Budget announced this week, $5 million was allocated toward Stage 3c along with $27 million for the completion of Stage 3a and 3b works.
"We're thanking the Minister for following through and giving us the extra two wards in the new (Stage 3c) build which should give as about an extra 60 beds," Dr Ingall said.
"As long as those beds are (staffed)... the ED will be able to decant their patients into a ward bed for the foreseeable future."
Stage 3c construction is expected to be completed by 2020. Construction is expected to begin as soon as Stage 3b is finished.