The New South Wales hospital emergency departments are failing to treat patients in time, the latest statistics show.
A majority of patients with potentially life-threatening conditions were treated within 30 minutes of arriving at emergency departments, that is 69 per cent. But where does it leave the rest, 31 per cent of them? That is a huge number.
AdvertisementThe Hospital Quarterly report of the Bureau of Health Information of the state for July-September 2010 shows 74 per cent were attended to promptly in the previous quarter.
Also only 64 per cent of patients were transferred from an ambulance into the care of an emergency department within 30 minutes of arrival, down from the previous quarter's 68 per cent.
However, Bureau Director Dr Diane Watson says emergency admissions have risen across the state, adding to the pressure on hospitals.
"Admitted patient episodes are at a two-year high, up four per cent on the last quarter and up three per cent relative to one year ago," she noted.
Elective surgery procedures were also at their highest level in two years. And they could be said to have had a satisfying time of it.
Most patients (92 per cent) across NSW hospitals requiring urgent elective surgery were seen within the required 30 day timeframe and the median waiting time for patients was 10 days, the report found.
Ninety per cent of patients waiting for semi-urgent procedures were admitted within the 90-day timeframe and the median waiting time for these patients was 48 days.
This was similar to the preceding quarter (49 days) and the quarter last year (46 days).
Waiting times for patients with non-urgent elective surgery fell to 175 days - down from 205 days in the previous quarter but up from 135 days a year ago, Dr Watson said.
"Waiting times for patients who received urgent and semi-urgent surgery remain relatively unchanged," she said.
Still the hospitals are suffering with "access block", meaning patients arriving by ambulance are having to wait longer for beds.
The figures reveal some hospitals will struggle to meet the Federal Government's reforms next year, when patients will be expected to be admitted to a ward within four hours.
Associate Professor, Brian Owler, a spokesman for the Australian Medical Association, told ABC News that hospitals were struggling to cope with increasing patient loads.
"What we see is that there are a lot of doctors and nurses working very hard in our public hospitals, particularly emergency departments," he said.
"What the problem is is that there are not the resources to be able to deal with the patient load that comes through those emergency departments."
New South Wales Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt has acknowledged improvements need to be made in emergency admissions.
"This is people who need to be admitted from the emergency department after treatment has commenced in the emergency department, but they need to be admitted into the main part of the hospital," she said.
"There does need to be improvement in the performance there and I've asked the department to work with those hospitals that are experiencing challenges in that area to turn that performance around."