Shocking report reveals poor hospital performance for emergencies as Covid bites

The Daily Telegraph, 14 September 2022

NSW government figures have painted a grim picture of the state’s hospitals revealing that the number of patients being seen on time in emergency departments has plummeted to the lowest since records first began in 2010.

The latest data from the Bureau of Health Information (BHI) for the April to June 2022 quarter found that about six in 10 patients were being seen on time — the lowest in 12 years.

More than 76,000 people left the ED without getting any treatment or before their treatment was finished with BHI acting chief executive Hilary Rowell saying one in five of the patients who left would come back to the ED in just three days.

Ms Rowell said Covid was to blame for the record poor performance in the BHI results.

The results were also dire for the state’s ambulance network with half of all emergency patients waiting 16 minutes for a response.

She said patients waited longer for an ambulance than any quarter in 12 years.

“NSW healthcare services continued to experience pressures in April to June, with sustained COVID-19 case numbers and the arrival of the winter flu season,” she said.

“Demand for ambulance responses remained high, particularly for patients requiring an emergency (P1) response, and patients waited longer for an ambulance than in any quarter since BHI began reporting in 2010.”

NSW Health accepted the “complex” issues facing the health system with deputy secretary Matthew Daly saying: “We acknowledge that the challenges faced by the health system did have an impact on the timeliness of care provided during the quarter.”

Prof Daly said staff had been hammered with more complex presentations to the ED along with the pressure of Covid and the flu.

“Of the almost 800,000 attendances at NSW emergency departments during the quarter, about 111,000 were by patients in triage category two, those with an imminently life-threatening condition – the highest number of patients in this category in any quarter since BHI began reporting,” Prof Daly said.

In positive news, he said almost all urgent elective surgeries (98.2 per cent) were

performed on time.

The findings will no doubt empower NSW’s furious healthcare unions where workers have already walked off the job multiple times this year citing mounting.

Paramedics have been vocal about growing pressures on their workforce while nurses and midwives took to the streets once again two weeks ago calling for better working conditions.

Labor Health spokesman Ryan Park took aim at the government for the results.

“12 years of understaffing and under resourcing are health and hospital system means communities now wait longer … for an ambulance to arrive, longer to get treated at their local Emergency Department and longer to get essential surgery,” he said.