Nightmares, hiccups… The mind-boggling reasons people are clogging up our emergency departments

Acne, hiccups, ingrown nails, splinters and nightmares are among a long list of minor conditions people are seeking treatment for at our hospital emergency departments, leaving doctors baffled.

New figures released today by Queensland’s Department of Health show emergency departments are being clogged up by people with conditions that could simply be treated by their local GP or even a pharmacist.

“In the first six months of this year, more than 290,000 presentations were categorised as GP-type, meaning they could or should have been treated by GPs or other clinical professionals and not in the emergency department,” Queensland Health’s Chief Clinical Information Officer Professor Keith McNeil said.


The data revealed that on average, of the 155,000 emergency department presentations across Queensland public hospitals every month, 32 per cent are ailments a GP could treat.

“Of those, we’ve had presentations for acne, hiccups, ingrown nails, blisters, warts and sunburn – not to mention the thousands of sprains and bruises our ED nurses and physiotherapists treat,” Professor McNeil said.

“While they may well have required some sort of medical or other clinical attention, the emergency department is not the right place for these kinds of ailments.”

Professor McNeil said Emergency Departments are continuing to see Queenslanders turning up for prescription refills, medical certificates and contraception management.

“The emergency department is not the place for these things – by definition, it’s there to treat emergencies,” he said.

Queensland Health is desperately urging people to think before heading to an Emergency Department for minor conditions.

“Our outstanding ED clinicians work hard, saving life and limb, and ensuring people are treated in a timely manner – these non-emergency and less severe type presentations make it much harder to do that,” Professor McNeil said.

“Keep our emergency departments for those who need it most.”