Lessons learned from relocating an acute surgical unit to a new quaternary referral centre in Adelaide, South Australia: a tale of two hospitals

ANZ J Surg. 2019 Dec;89(12):1620-1625. doi: 10.1111/ans.15498. Epub 2019 Oct 21.


Background: On 4 September 2017, patient care was relocated from one quaternary hospital that was closing, to another proximate greenfield site in Adelaide, Australia, this becoming the new Royal Adelaide Hospital. There are currently no data to inform how best to transition hospitals. We conducted a 12-week prospective study of admissions under our acute surgical unit to determine the impact on our key performance indicators. We detail our results and describe compensatory measures deployed around the move.

Methods: Using a standard proforma, data were collected on key performance indicators for acute surgical unit patients referred by the emergency department (ED). This was supplemented by data obtained from operative management software and coding data from medical records to build a database for analysis.

Results: Five hundred and eight patients were admitted during the study period. Significant delays were seen in times to surgical referral, surgical review and leaving the ED. Closely comparable was time spent in the surgical suite. Uptake of the Ambulatory Care Pathway fell by 67% and the Rapid Access Clinic by 46%. Overall mortality and patient length of stay were not affected.

Conclusion: We found the interface with ED was most affected. Staff encountered difficulties familiarizing with a new environment and an anecdotally high number of ED presentations. Delays to referral and surgical review resulted in extended patient stay in ED. Once in theatre, care was comparable pre- and post-transition. This was likely from early identification of patients requiring an emergency operation, close consultant surgeon involvement and robust working relationships between surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses.

Keywords: acute surgical unit; emergency surgery; quality and safety in surgical practice.

MeSH terms

  • Critical Pathways / organization & administration*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Referral and Consultation / organization & administration*
  • Regional Medical Programs / organization & administration*
  • South Australia
  • Surgery Department, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Workflow