Patients could start waiting in ambulances outside of emergency departments if a proposal by nurses at two major public hospitals in Adelaide gets approved. The Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) warns that these nurses are planning to limit patient admissions in emergency department as part of their protest against cuts to patient beds.

The nurses are also protesting against the closing of Ward S7 at the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH). According to ABC News, the SA Government will seek an urgent injunction from the state’s Industrial Relations Commission today to prevent the staff from taking the action.

The staff’s proposal could hurt patients, says Health Minister Jack Snelling. However, ACEM’s SA chairman and RAH’s emergency department medical director Tom Soulsby, supports the nurses. However, Soulsby says that the proposal could still affect doctors, paramedics and patients. But closing acute beds was also wrong.

“The Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the Royal Adelaide Hospital have for the past year, on most days, had many patients waiting for beds at seven o’clock in the morning and this could be 15 to 20 waiting for beds,” Soulsby says.

Elizabeth Dabars, the chief executive of Nursing and Midwifery Federation’s SA branch, says that the nurses were simply acting in patients’ best interests. She adds: “Instead of just playing legal games why doesn’t the Minister just simply reopen those beds? Those beds are required. There are people waiting to fill those beds as we speak.”

Snelling points out that the innocent patients would be the ones that will get affected the most by the industrial action. The industrial action would begin on Saturday, however, Dabars said that the nurses were fine with delaying it until Monday.

“I want the nurses union back at the table. I want to talk with them about what we can do to address the concerns that they’ve raised. The industrial action is only going to hurt patients in our hospitals and we need to put a stop to [it],” says Snelling.