Nepean doctor speaks out on trauma protocol

A Nepean Hospital doctor has spoken out about the trauma transfer protocol in NSW, which he says is putting lives at risk.

Lives at risk: Dr Marek Nalos would like to see the trauma transfer protocol changed to 30 minutes of travel time.

Lives at risk: Dr Marek Nalos would like to see the trauma transfer protocol changed to 30 minutes of travel time.

Dr Marek Nalos says Nepean Hospital, which is a regional trauma hospital, is being bypassed for Westmead Hospital due to the protocol, which states trauma patients must be taken to a major trauma hospital.

When an ambulance is called for a trauma case, often a person involved in a car accident, the protocol adopted in 2009 allows for up to 60 minutes of travel time from the place of injury to the nearest major trauma hospital.

Dr Nalos is an intensive care specialist and is the trauma director at Nepean Hospital. He was frustrated to hear of the 21-year-old pedestrian involved in a collision with a car at Winmalee on August 8 and taken to Westmead Hospital in a stable condition. The man sustained a knee injury. 

“He could have just as well been treated in the nearest local trauma hospital which is Nepean Hospital,” Dr Nalos said.

“Thanks to the current outrageous trauma transfer protocol used across NSW, ambulance cars are required to travel to a major trauma hospital even when the patient is stable. This then often leaves ambulance cars in the area unavailable for other potentially life threatening emergencies.”

He says many patients injured in the Penrith area and literally just minutes from Nepean Hospital, are tying up ambulance cars being driven to Westmead.

“That takes ambulance cars away from the NBMLHD [Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District], patients away from their families, and local expertise suffers,” Dr Nalos said.

He would like to see the protocol changed to 30 minutes of travel time from the place of injury to the nearest regional or major trauma hospital.

“There have been cases [a few] where patients didn’t make it to a major [trauma] hospital because the travel time was too long. They may have made it to a regional trauma hospital,” Dr Nalos said. 

Nepean Hospital doesn’t have cardiac surgery capabilities or a full-time trauma director like Westmead Hospital, but is well-equipped to handle moderately injured patients, Dr Nalos said.

He’s hopeful the $550 million upgrade of Nepean Hospital, due for completion in 2021, will also mean an expansion in services for trauma patients.

Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District was approached for comment but did not respond before deadline.

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