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Epidemic of hospital emergency 'Code Reds'

Tony Ryall MP
National Party Health Spokesman & Katrina Shanks National Party MP

30 May 2008

Epidemic of hospital emergency 'Code Reds'

Reporters: Wellington, Auckland, Dunedin & Wairarapa figures attached

Figures obtained by the National Party show the number of times hospitals are being forced into 'Code Red' because they can't cope with patient demand is on the increase.

"Despite the billions of extra funding and the thousands of extra bureaucrats - our health services continue to lurch from one crisis to the next. Now the public is discovering that our hospitals are having troubling coping even before the winter flu season starts," says National's Health spokesman, Tony Ryall.

National has received information under the Official Information Act which shows that Capital and Coast Health in Wellington has had more 'Code Reds' more frequently this year than last.

"And that's before the winter crop of illness strikes."

The figures show there were 10 'Code Reds' at Wellington Hospital in February this year and six in March. Last year, numbers peaked at six in the months of September and November.

"What's really concerning here is that you look at the trends at the beginning of 2007 compared with this year - and the 'Code Reds' appear to be happening earlier and more frequently. Without action, winter will put tremendous pressure on our health services," says Wellington-based National MP Katrina Shanks.

National has received confirmation that since September last year Dunedin Hospital has had 60 'Code Red days, while so far this year Auckland DHB has had 24, and Wairarapa 13.

"So, the problems do not appear to be confined to Wellington. There are major problems throughout the hospital system, particularly with shortages in key frontline staff. We know that some hospitals are closing down beds because of staff shortages," says Mr Ryall.

National's health discussion paper canvases a number of ways to start addressing the health workforce crisis, including the voluntary bonding of doctors in hard-to-staff areas.

"Labour dismissed this policy right up until this week. Now, the current Minister says it has always been part of Labour's plan. Unfortunately for him, the public has already seen Labour's plan. That plan has involved the production of 43 workforce reports since 2000. Clearly Labour's 'plan' isn't working."


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