Objective: This study assessed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on emergency departments (EDs) in South Australia, measured by changes in the number and casemix of patients in the system over time.
Methods: Data from the South Australia Emergency Department Dashboard, updated every 30 min, were analysed for the period 4 October–21 December 2020. The Dashboard reports live counts of the number and type of patients in each of the six adult metropolitan public EDs in Adelaide, South Australia.
Results: There was a significant difference in the mean daily average occupied ED capacity before and during two distinct increases in COVID-19 cases in South Australia. An increase in COVID-19 cases coincided with a decrease in patients in EDs (Pearson’s r = –0.93 and –0.67; P < 0.001 for both). Presentations in Australasian Triage Scale (ATS) Categories 2–5 decreased during these periods, whereas ATS Category 1 stayed constant. Mental health patients continued to present to the ED, despite the overall drop in ED presentations.
Conclusions: During the two periods of COVID-19 case growth in South Australia, there was a significant drop in the number of patients presenting to the major public EDs and a change in the casemix of patients over time.