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The Truth about our Emergency Departments

Media Release
PDF file of story from the May issue of Reader’s Digest is attached

Hot on the heels of the Young Doctors' Strike
The Truth about our Emergency Departments

Most of us are satisfied with the treatment given at emergency departments, and although we expect much faster treatment, we trust the hardworking staff, and we feel safe and generally satisfied, according to a survey conducted by Reader’s Digest.

But over half (58%) of us see the lack of doctors and nurses as the main cause of slow treatment, with 41% blaming this staffing shortage on inadequate government policy and funding.

Reader’s Digest polled a representative sample of 250 New Zealanders, asking them about their experiences, concerns, expectations and level of trust in our emergency departments.

A resounding 94% of us are content with the quality of medical care offered by our emergency departments, with 22% best describing it as professional and 26% as efficient. Only 6% believe the treatment is incompetent or dangerous.

We know emergency departments to be busy places, 78% of us said so. Of these 43% said they found them “mildly busy”, 35% “busy but well-managed” and only 6% chose “chaotic”.

On average, poll participants with direct experience reported a wait of 102 minutes at emergency departments, way above the average of 38 minutes we considered an acceptable wait.

Indeed, 57% of us identified the excessive waiting as the leading cause of concern, twice as important as the lack of resources available to staff (19%) and four times (13%) more important than the actual time spent with a doctor receiving treatment.

It seems time ticks slowly by in emergency rooms with nearly a quarter (22%) finding the slow pace making them feel annoyed and agitated.

On a positive note, of those polled who had recently needed emergency hospital care, 85% said they were pleased with the treatment received from emergency doctors and nurses, 60% felt the staff listened and took their concerns seriously and 73% were happy with the information provided about their condition.

An overwhelming 89% of us said despite the wait and the discomfort, we feel safe in emergency.


Independent market research company, the Leading Edge, polled a representative sample of 250 New Zealanders between 18 – 22 January 2008. The May issue of Reader’s Digest will be out on Wednesday.

* An emergency department nurse with 20 years experience (Christchurch)
* A Professor of Emergency Medicine from the University of Otago (Christchurch)
* Chair of the NZ Faculty of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (Wellington)

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