A recently announced research project will look into the value of providing 24-hour emergency nursing care for people held in police watch houses.
Associate professor of emergency care at Griffith University and Gold Coast Health, Julia Crilly, said the project partly comes out of recommendations from an inquiry into deaths in custody, released in 2012, surrounding the presence of medically trained staff in large watch houses.
The research, funded by the Queensland Emergency Medicine Research Foundation (QEMRF), will evaluate the health outcomes and cost-effectiveness of a trial involving Gold Coast Health emergency nurses at the Southport watch house.
Prior to the trial, the watch house was staffed for a few hours a day by nurses trained in community care. The trial added ED nurses with specialist skills, resulting in a 24-hour nursing presence.
Crilly said: “The nurses could detect and treat more health issues on site, in conjunction with forensic medical officers who are on call. This means fewer transfers to hospital.”
Gold Coast Health emergency nurse Katie East, who worked at the watch house, said the nurses there saw a range of health issues, including drug addiction, wounds, alcohol poisoning, mental health illnesses and chronic problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
“It costs more than $900 every time a prisoner needs to be transported to the ED, which requires two police officers and two ambulance officers as well as hospital resources,” East said. “Having emergency nurses on hand means fewer hospital transports and police are able to do their jobs, rather than waiting in busy emergency departments guarding prisoners.”
The project is a collaboration between QEMRF, Gold Coast Health, Griffith University, Clinical Forensic Medical Unit, Queensland Police Service and the Queensland Ambulance Service. Crilly said other states were anticipating the results of the research.Do you have an idea for a story?
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