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Local Health District emergency departments perform well across challenging quarter

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  • Local Health District emergency departments perform well across challenging quarter

16 March 2022

The October to December 2021 quarter was a challenging period for Western New South Wales Local Health District (WNSWLHD), its staff, patients and community.

The latest quarterly report from the Bureau of Health Information (BHI) captures the period following the peak of the Delta outbreak and the emergence of the Omicron variant. Despite this challenging period, WNSWLHD continued to provide high quality and safe care to its local communities.

There were 49,550 attendances to emergency departments (EDs) across the District between October and December 2021, a decrease of 16 per cent, or 9,425 fewer attendances, compared to the same quarter in 2020.

There were decreases across all triage categories at the EDs. The most significant decreases from the same quarter in 2020 were seen in non-urgent triage category 5 presentations, down 26 per cent or 3,198 presentations and semi-urgent triage category 4 presentations, with a decrease of 7.9 per cent or 1,685 presentations.

“The reduced demand for COVID-19 testing at EDs between October and December 2021, compared to 2020, could have contributed to those decreases. The vast majority of COVID-19 testing was conducted off-site,” WNSWLHD Chief Executive Mark Spittal said.

As pressure eased, the number of patients starting treatment on time rose to 86 per cent, an improvement of 0.9 percentage points and significantly higher than the state average of 73.9 per cent.

Almost nine in 10 patients (89.9 per cent) were transferred from paramedics to the ED staff within the 30-minute benchmark, a steady result and also ahead of the state average of 83.2 per cent.

More than three quarters of patients (77.3 per cent) also left the ED within four hours of arriving, which is better than the state average of 66.9 per cent.

“The severity of the COVID-19 outbreak in Western NSW continued to create extraordinary challenges during the final quarter of 2021, but we are immensely proud of all our staff for their effort during this period,” Mr Spittal said.

WNSWLHD performed fewer elective surgeries during the October to December quarter of 2021, compared to the previous year. The total number of surgeries decreased by 229, or 7.9 per cent, to 2,657 surgeries.

There were fewer patients on the waiting list for surgery at the end of the quarter, with 529 fewer people waiting, compared to the same quarter in 2020, down to 4,882.

“While the number of non-urgent and semi-urgent elective surgeries performed on time continued to be impacted by temporary suspensions of non-urgent procedures to protect staff and patients from COVID-19 during the early stages of the quarter, almost all of our urgent procedures were performed on time,” Mr Spittal said.

The 2021-22 budget for Western NSW Local Health District is more than $1.04 billion, an increase of more than $45 million, or 4.5 per cent more, on the previous year’s budget.

Between mid-2012 and mid-2021, WNSWLHD increased its workforce by an additional 614 full-time equivalent staff – an increase of 12.8 per cent including 109 more doctors, 210 more nurses and midwives and 133 more allied health staff.

The 2021-22 NSW Health total budget is $30.2 billion, including an $80 million investment to fast track elective surgeries, focusing on surgery delayed by COVID-19.

Bathurst Health Service

Bathurst Hospital experienced a significant decrease in ED attendances compared to the same period of 2020, down by 4,635 attendances or 40.1 per cent, to 6,924 attendances.

The vast majority of patients (85.5 per cent) started treatment on time – well above the average for hospitals of a similar size (74.7 per cent).

All urgent elective surgery (100 per cent) was performed on time.

Cowra Health Service

Cowra Health Service ED experienced an increase in attendances compared to the same period in 2020, up by 103 attendances or 5.4 per cent, to 2,018 attendances.

This increase can largely be attributed to an 83.5 per cent increase in the number of non-urgent triage category 5 attendances, up from 194 attendances for the same quarter in the previous year to 356 in this reporting period. 35.5 per cent of those attendances were identified as likely to be only for a COVID-19 test. Notably, emergency triage category two attendances increased significantly, up to 195 attendances in this reporting period, an increase of 42.3 per cent or 58 attendances.

More than nine out of 10 (94.3 per cent) patients had their treatment start on time in the ED, an improvement from the previous year and significantly higher than average for hospitals of a similar size (80.4 per cent).

Dubbo Hospital

Dubbo experienced a 28.3 per cent decrease in the number of ED attendances, down 3,611 attendances, compared with the previous year’s October to December quarter, to 9,162 attendances.

Notably, there was a 49.9 per cent decrease in the number of non-urgent triage category 5 presentations, down 2,090 to 2,102 presentations, compared to the previous year.

More than four in five (84.9 per cent) people started treatment on time in the ED, better than the average for comparable hospitals (73.5 per cent).

At Dubbo Hospital, 949 elective surgeries were performed during the quarter. Almost all urgent elective surgery (99.1 per cent) was performed on time.

The number of patients on the waiting list ready for surgery at the end of the quarter also decreased by more than 18 per cent, from 2,257 to 1,847.

Forbes Hospital

Forbes Hospital experienced a similar number of ED attendances compared to the same period in 2020, with a small decrease of 100 attendances or 4.8 per cent, from 2,087 to 1,987.

During the quarter, 87.4 per cent of patients started their treatment on time, better than the average for hospitals of a similar size (80.4 per cent).
Nearly all patients (97.5 per cent) were transferred from paramedics to the ED staff within the 30-minute benchmark – a stable result and better than comparable hospitals in NSW.

Mudgee Health Service

Mudgee Health Service ED had a decrease in attendances to 3,424, down by 242 attendances or 6.6 per cent, compared to the same quarter in the previous year.

Mudgee Health Service performed 192 elective surgeries during the quarter, a significant increase of 76.1 per cent or 83 surgeries more than the previous year, and 96.7 per cent were performed on time. This is an improvement of 4.7 percentage points compared with the same quarter in 2020.

Orange Health Service

Attendances to Orange ED decreased by 846 attendances, or 9.7 per cent, to 7,908 attendances compared to the October to December 2020 quarter.

83.3 per cent of patients started their treatment on time, an improvement of 3.5 percentage points compared with the same quarter in 2020 and significantly better than the average for hospitals of a similar size (73.5 per cent).

More than nine out of 10 patients (92.4 per cent) were transferred from paramedics to the ED staff within the 30-minute benchmark – an improvement of 2.7 percentage points and better than comparable hospitals in NSW (82.9 per cent)

The hospital performed 907 elective surgeries during the quarter. All urgent elective surgery (100 per cent) was performed on time.