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EDs miss triage times as hospitals buckle

Annette KING

Health Spokesperson                        

11 August  2013                                                         


EDs miss triage times as hospitals buckle under financial pressure  

Few hospitals are meeting Government benchmarks for emergency department treatment, with rising numbers of urgent cases not being seen by a doctor within recommended times, says Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King.
 Details, obtained by Labour under the Official Information Act, show that in many regions less than half the target numbers of triage 2 and 3 patients are being seen within the Government’s own recommended timeframes.
“That’s thousands of patients with potentially serious health issues having to wait longer than they should. 
“In the case of Triage 2 patients – those with serious head injury, moderately severe trauma and suspected heart attacks – it is expected 80 per cent should be seen within 10 minutes.
“In the 12 months to May this year, 10 district health boards did not meet that benchmark, with Hutt Valley and Waikato DHBs and Rotorua Hospital falling well outside the acceptable time, at 38 per cent, 46.14 per cent and 48 per cent respectively.
“Triage 3 - where 75 per cent of patients, with conditions which need urgent management, including fractures, breathlessness and bleeding, are supposed to be seen within 30 minutes – is just as bad, if not worse, with hospitals in just five DHB regions meeting target waiting times.”
Mrs King said New Zealand hospitals used the Australian Triage scale to assess patients because, as Tony Ryall himself said when National was in Opposition, it is “a key measure of performance” for hospitals.
“Ironically Mr Ryall dumped public reporting of triage times three years ago with little fanfare, although the information is still required by the Ministry of Health. Data is now only released if requested under the Official Information Act.
“Accident and Emergency departments are the go-to for many people when demand is not met elsewhere, or when the cost of going elsewhere becomes prohibitive. It’s a symptom of pressure within the health system.
“The six-hour target is agreed in principal by many health professionals, but not at the expense of the patients and the effective operation of the rest of the hospital.
“We know health boards are being forced to spread the money they receive more thinly to meet Mr Ryall’s cost-cutting directives. This is just one result of that.” 


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