Canberra Hospital is considering changes to deal with growing patient numbers, as a leaked email reveals the hospital frequently operates at more than 95 per cent capacity.
Under the plan, patients set to be discharged from wards with high capacity would be placed in areas not normally used to accommodate beds, reducing pressure on traditional ward space.
The plan is revealed in an email from the hospital's new executive director, Mark Dykgraaf, which was obtained by Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson on Wednesday.
Sent on September 11, it shows staff were forced to deal with "particularly high presentations, high workloads and significant challenges with bed access inside the hospital" in recent weeks.
The hospital has asked Chief Minister Katy Gallagher to consider the new protocols and an accompanying communications strategy ahead of a required public consultation and possible introduction in late October or November.
Under the proposal, patients from certain wards who are expected to be discharged within 24 hours would be accommodated in areas "on the ward that is not a designated conventional ward bed space", the email said.
"This will enable transfer of an additional patient from the ED to the ward, into the bed made available by transfer of a patient into the overcapacity bed space on that ward."
There would be a limit of one such "overcapacity" patient per ward and the proposal indicates it would free up to 10 beds across the hospital at times when the hospital was operating close to capacity.
The email lists nine wards flagged as possibilities for using "overcapacity bed spaces" as well as the surgical and assessment and planning unit.
It says the protocol would be automatically activated in times of level three or four escalation between 7.30am and 3.30pm on weekdays.
Mr Hanson raised the protocols with Ms Gallagher, who also serves as Health Minister, in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday.
"There are a range of stategies that have been implemented to address pressure," Ms Gallagher said.
"Some of them have had more impact than others but I don't believe any of them have been ceased because they all form part of the solution going forward."
The debate came as ACT Health on Wednesday revealed more than 200 people a day had been to the Canberra Hospital emergency department in the past week, as they urged people to save the ED for genuine medical emergencies.
ACT Health director-general Peggy Brown said there had been a succession of "extremely high" patient numbers in the ED and there were 1436 presentations in the past week.
In the first half of this month, the ED dealt with more than 5720 patients, after 11,395 people presented in August.
Admission records show ED presentations increased from about 119,000 in 2012-13 to a record 125,890 last financial year.
Dr Brown warned emergency visits were growing at a higher rate than Canberra's overall population growth, which was placing "enormous pressure" on resources primarily used to treat medical emergencies.
She encouraged anyone with non-life threatening or non-limb threatening injuries to use alternative services such as walk-in centres at the Tuggeranong or Belconnen community health centres, their GP, healthdirect or the National Home Doctor Service.
In his email, Mr Dykgraaf outlined other strategies introduced since 2012 to respond to "the increase in demand and to alleviate pressure on the ED", conceding some "might be viewed to be the less than perfect solution for ED and the broader hospital", but said they were part of the solution and had, in most cases, had some beneficial impact.
This financial year, 45 new beds will be introduced across the hospital, with 27 to be opened by early next month.
Mr Dykgraaf also outlined how telephone bed audits would monitor free space in the hospital, with calls every two or three hours to check where beds were unoccupied.
Walking audits will take place twice daily.