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Emergency department delays for most

Tony Ryall MP
National Party Health Spokesman

24 October 2008

Emergency department delays for most

There's yet more proof of how gridlocked the country's hospitals are becoming with the latest emergency department waiting time report from the Government, says National Party Health spokesman Tony Ryall.

"There's been no improvement in waiting times for the vast bulk of people attending EDs. These so-called triage 3 patients make up 80% of the people in Ministry reports turning up at EDs. They turn up with fractures, breathlessness and bleeding and are having to wait for hours and hours to be seen. They should be seen by a doctor within 30 minutes but on average only 53% are.

The latest information for the three months ending June 2008, shows none of the country's major hospital emergency departments is seeing patients soon enough.

Only six of the smaller district health boards (DHBs) in New Zealand are meeting all three of the Government's own waiting time benchmarks for treating patients at emergency departments. These benchmarks are recommended by the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine.

“Some of the major DHBs are, in fact, going backwards (*1). They are no where near meeting the Government's targets. It's little wonder that the news is full of gridlocked hospitals in Code Red, and even the previously unheard of Code Purple.

Mr Ryall is praising the hard working doctors and nurses for a slight improvement in triage 2. These patients have serious head injuries and suspected heart attacks. They should be seen within 10 minutes but on average only 71% are. After nine years of Labour, billions of extra dollars, and thousands of extra bureaucrats most Kiwis would expect our frontline emergency departments to be doing much better.

“How long you wait in a hospital emergency department has a direct bearing on how well any treatment will work (*2).

"When the economy gets tough as it is now, Kiwis need to know they can rely on their public hospitals. Frontline doctors and nurses need to be given authority to sort out the ED crisis around the country. National's plans for giving doctors and nurses more say, will help fix the ED crisis. It's worked overseas and it can work here,” says Mr Ryall.

*1 - Triage 3

*2 - Ministry of Health, Health and Independence Report 2006.

*3 - Triage 1: Immediate: these patients tend to have an immediate threat to life and limb, such as immediate risk to airway breathing or circulation or are deeply unconscious.

Triage 2: 10 minutes: These patients tend to have potential or imminent threat to life or limb. For example serious head injury, moderately severe trauma, suspected heart attack.

Traige 3: 30 minutes: these patients tend to have conditions which need urgent management or are associated with significant systems. For example fractures, breathlessness, bleeding.

Attached: Emergency Department Triage Times for Quarter ending June 2008 – 3 pages (Word Doc).


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