Unions say rampant overcrowding at the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) has turned deadly.

The South Australian Salaried Medical Officers Association (SMOA) says there is evidence that overcrowding led to the death of one patient.

The union says it found out about the death during an audit of metropolitan hospitals in the state.

It is understood that the case related to a patient who died within 24 hours of leaving the hospital.

SA Health has issued statement saying; “After being notified of the death of a patient in the community, SA Health referred the case to the coroner to be investigated.”

“The Safety Learning System (SLS) enabled staff and managers to identify any potential risk or concern so they could be investigated and appropriate measures could be taken to prevent them occurring again.”

But the SMOA’s report found more should be done across the entire RAH institution, as a number of anonymous medical staff presented a damning assessment of conditions.

“This is an appalling and unsafe environment,” one medical officer said.

“Patients have died due to overcrowding at the RAH and more will die.

“The use of SLS reports are designed to protect corporate and are not designed for the protection of patient care,” another RAH staff member wrote.

“It is such a poor tool and if you send in an SLS they just send it back to you.”

Some patients had actually been “forgotten”, one officer said.

“There is a lack of appropriate medical supervision for staff and patients as it was not possible to be in all these areas and bad things happen.”

The report also found three specific life-threatening incidences that had allegedly occurred due to the sheer number of patients at the RAH emergency department.

The incidents were:

  • Medicine overdose – With All four resuscitation cubicles were occupied, one patient was given 50 units instead of 5 units of the appropriate medication. Luckily the incident was rectified in time, when a senior medical officer noticed something was wrong.
  • Ad-hoc treatment - An elderly man was given an ultra-sound to check for a potential aneurism in front of a sink with no resuscitation equipment available, as all proper facilities were occupied.
  • Ebola risk - With 87 patients in the 56-bed RAH ED at the time, one man was transported around departments, hallways, and waiting rooms looking for a place to be treated. It was later discovered that the patient had been working in a high Ebola endemic location in Africa.

SA Health says all the union’s findings will be investigated.

Meanwhile, the RAH ED runs at around 105 per cent capacity most days.

With just over 50 beds on offer, RAH often has to treat dozens of patients outside the ED in a practice known as ‘ramping’.

The SMOA’s latest report adds to recent calls from the SA Ambulance Employees Association, which has raised fears that ramping will lead to a fatal outcome.