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Our winter demand strategy

SA Health has a Winter Demand Management Plan (PDF 655KB) in place to help ease the pressure on our metropolitan hospitals in peak winter periods.

The 2018 plan includes a number of strategies that will help to free up hospital beds and manage increased demand during the traditionally busy winter period.

These strategies include:

  • Transferring patients from metropolitan to peri-urban hospitals, facilitated through a centralised Transfer Coordination Service, where appropriate, and following discussion with patients, families and carers.
  • Temporarily postponing some non-urgent elective surgery.
  • Providing patients attending an Emergency Department, who may face a longer wait, with information on General Practice (GP) clinics that are located close by as an alternative. 
  • Conducting regular statewide teleconferences to pro-actively discuss system demands and facilitate executive level decision making and solutions where possible.
  • Providing free influenza vaccination to members of the community who are most at risk, including under 5 year olds.
  • Implementing capacity planning technology and forecasting tools across all metropolitan and peri-urban hospitals to predict demand.
  • Implementing rapid respiratory testing across metropolitan Emergency Departments to enable faster diagnosis and treatment for patients with respiratory viruses.
  • Partnering with the Adelaide and Country SA Primary Health Networks to deliver a Keeping Well in Winter strategy focused on maintaining wellness and preventing deterioration of patients, particularly those with chronic and complex conditions.
  • Local Health Network and SA Ambulance Service initiatives. 
  • SA Health will encourage members of the public to consider if their emergency is really an emergency through the public awareness campaign ‘Emergency Departments are for Emergencies’. Community understanding about what conditions can be treated within a GP setting, rather than at a hospital, will mean faster and more appropriate care for South Australian patients.


SA Health delivers a wide range of services to patients in metropolitan and country hospitals across the public health system.

It is common practice for patients to receive part of their care in one hospital and then be moved to another service location where ongoing care can be best provided.

During your hospital stay, you may be transferred to one of our peri-urban hospitals including Gawler, Mount Barker and Victor Harbor to continue your care or complete your recovery.

This will be coordinated by the Transfer Coordination Service and will only take place following clinical assessment and discussion with you and your family.

For more information, please refer to the transfer to another hospital Frequently Asked Questions (PDF 232KB).

To find out more about the visiting hours, services and contact details of peri-urban hospitals, visit our A-Z of country hospitals page or access the information sheets below:

In situations of high demand, SA Health may seek to postpone non-urgent elective surgery.

If your elective surgery needs to be postponed, where possible, you will be provided with a minimum 24 hours’ notice by phone.

If your elective surgery is postponed, your surgery will be rescheduled in a timely manner to ensure you receive your treatment as soon as possible.

For more information, please refer to the postponement of non-urgent elective surgery Frequently Asked Questions (PDF 64KB).

Should you need medical support during this time, please consider seeing a General Practitioner (GP). In an emergency, always call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.

For more information on care options, please visit our Emergency Departments are for Emergencies page.

Emergency Departments are designed to deal with emergencies.

For minor illnesses or injury, there are a range of other care options available. In the Emergency Department, patients are seen and treated depending on the urgency of their clinical condition, and not necessarily the order in which they arrive.

When you arrive at a public hospital Emergency Department our team will assess your condition. If your condition is assessed as less serious and non-life threatening, you may be asked to wait in the waiting room.

We understand that waiting can be frustrating and our staff do their best to keep your wait to a minimum.

You are always welcome to remain in the Emergency Department to be seen, however you may prefer to seek care at a General Practice (GP) clinic.

Some of these GP clinics are open after hours and may even bulk bill so there is no additional cost.

See our contact list for Local General Practices in your area.

Our executive teams meet regularly, sometimes up to twice daily, to discuss demand at a statewide level. This helps our teams make decisions and implement solutions to maintain the provision of high quality, timely care.

As part of the National Immunisation Program, free influenza vaccination is available for people who are at greater risk of developing complications if they get the flu. The influenza vaccination is free for:

  • everyone aged 65 years and over
  • all pregnant women (any trimester)
  • all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 6 months up to 5 years of age
  • all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 15 years of age and over
  • people six months of age or older with chronic medical conditions.


  • In 2018, the State Government extended this program and all children under 5 years will be eligible for free influenza vaccinations.

Comprehensive forecasting tools help with understanding and responding to the level of demand that we can expect on any given day. SA Health will expand existing technology to all of our metropolitan and peri-urban hospitals to enable our hospitals to better plan for predicted demand.

SA Health will ensure our patients are able to access rapid respiratory testing in all of our metropolitan Emergency Departments. This means quicker diagnosis and therapy initiation.

The Primary Health Networks (PHNs) play a key role in providing health services to our patients through their local General Practitioner (GP).

SA Health and the Adelaide and Country SA PHNs have worked in partnership to deliver a Keeping Well in Winter Strategy focussing on a wide range of ways to keep well and prevent deterioration of health, especially for patients living with chronic and complex conditions.

To find out more about the Keeping Well in Winter Strategy, please visit the Winter Wellness page.

Local Health Networks and SA Ambulance Service (SAAS) have developed local plans to prepare for winter demand.

Local Health Network plans include strategies that focus on improving flow (for example, streamlined infection control practices), increasing workforce to match periods of peak demand, and using programs such as Hospital in the Home and the Metropolitan Referral Unit to enable earlier supported patient discharge, where appropriate.

For SAAS, examples of strategies include additional crewing during known periods of peak demand, and accessing out of hospital services for patients, where appropriate, to avoid the need to attend a hospital ED.

SA Health continues to develop other initiatives that will support broader demand and capacity management both during winter and throughout the entirety of the year. Other initiatives include:

  • Exploring opportunities to implement a mobile x-ray service that will enable patients in Aged Care Facilities to access diagnostic services in the facility rather than attending an Emergency Department.
  • Exploring opportunities to expand access to imaging services (for example, x-ray and ultrasound) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to metropolitan hospitals at which it is not currently available.
  • Working with our private partners to understand how they might be able to provide assistance during times of peak and sustained demand.
  • Developing a range of statewide policies to further support patient flow, hospital and Emergency Department avoidance and reduced length of stay in hospital. These include the Hospital in the Home Policy Guideline (PDF 350KB), Direct Admission Policy, and other policies under development including Criteria Led Discharge and an ED flow policy.
  • Promoting the use of the new HealthPathways online portal which supports primary care clinicians to plan your health care journey through primary, community and acute care systems.
  • Establishing a statewide patient flow collaborative who are currently undertaking several short term projects with a focus on:
    • Emergency Department and hospital avoidance
    • Earlier supported discharge from hospital
    • Improving access to overnight decision makers in the Emergency Department for our patients presenting with mental health conditions
    • Improving the management of patients presenting to our Emergency Departments with behaviour disturbances secondary to the influence of substances (drug and alcohol).
  • Changes to the Emergency Department infrastructure at the Flinders Medical Centre and the Lyell McEwin Hospitals will create additional capacity and improve patient flow.
  • Opening two ambulance stations, locatd in Glengowrie and Parafield, enabling staffing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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