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Emergency Department Performance Falling

Hon Tony Ryall
Minister of Health
Minister of State Services

21 December 2008 Media Release

Emergency Department Performance Falling

"Evidence just keeps piling up of the mess we've inherited in Health from the previous Labour Government " says new Health Minister Tony Ryall.

"The latest DHB Hospital Benchmarking Information reveals ED patients are waiting longer and longer. Hospitals have had not only the biggest drop in meeting emergency department triage rates for category 2 patients in four years, but the second worst performance for triage 3 patients on record."

Mr Ryall says a key measure of performance is the waiting time people experience in hospital emergency departments.

"Thanks to our dedicated frontline staff, patients experiencing immediately life threatening conditions get seen at once. But too many others - who are also seriously injured or ill - have to wait - and wait – in overcrowded and struggling emergency departments. And for these patients it's getting worse."

"The national emergency department triage rate for category 2 patients dropped in the latest quarter – Only 67.5% of those patients were seen within the recommended ten minutes. That is the worst level in four years."

"Less than half of people categorised as triage 3 were seen within the recommended time of 30 minutes in the September quarter – the worst performance bar one since they started recording data in 2001," says the Health Minister.

"This reflects the many personal experiences of thousands of New Zealanders - that waiting times have got worse. "

"I have just received a report from a taskforce on speeding up emergency departments. We can’t fix this overnight, but the new government and the public health service are determined to improve this."

The DHB Hospital Benchmarking Information, Report for the Quarter July – September 2008 is available at

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.

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


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