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Waiting times will put patients at risk

Dr Lynda Scott

National Health Spokeswoman

24 March 2004

Waiting times will put patients at risk this winter

Patients will be at increased risk of illness, disability and maybe even death unnecessarily this winter if A & E 'Scorecard' results are anything to go by, says Dr Lynda Scott, National's Health Spokeswoman.

The DHB Balanced Scorecard for the quarter ended 30 September 2003 shows that emergency triage response times are not up to scratch in 18 of 21 DHBs.

"DHBs have continually failed to meet the waiting-time benchmark. This has been pointed out to the Minister over eight consecutive quarters but, to date, she has failed to take any action," says Dr Scott.

In the quarter to March 2003, only 5 DHBs met the 10-minute target for semi-urgent procedures and only three met the target level for the acceptable 30-minute waiting time for routine procedures.

"The Government piles precious resources and time into producing the scorecards. The Health Minister chooses to ignore the results, which show ongoing failure," says Dr Scott.

"We are well on the way to winter, where viral infections and an array of bugs flourish. Last winter two patients died as they waited for meningitis diagnosis and treatment, bringing the total number of deaths from the disease to 11 for the year.

"Complaints regarding waiting times and the handling of meningitis patients were made at both the Capital and Coast and Southland DHBs. You would think that this, coupled with ongoing reports outlining excessive triage waiting times, would prompt the Government to act.

"How many more patients have to put at unnecessary risk before we see some action from Annette King?"

Ends

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