Lismore Base Hospital
Lismore Base Hospital Marc Stapelberg

Hospital 'buckling' under 'enormous pressure'

LISMORE Base Hospital was the second most under pressure hospital outside Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle, according to the latest quarterly report from the Bureau of Health Information.

According to the report, 32.9 per cent of patients waited longer than four hours over the three months from October to December 2017.

Of the 80 hospitals in NSW, Lismore Base Hospital is sitting at number 13 for the percentage of patients who waited longer than four hours in emergency.

Nepean Hospital in the Blue Mountains currently has the longest waiting times in the state at 44.8 per cent of patients waiting long than four hours.

At Lismore Base Hospital, 8877 patients presented to the emergency department (ED) in the quarter which was an increase of 5.2 per cent from 2016 (8441).

Furthermore, 10 per cent of patients waited more than eight hours and 27 minutes in the emergency department.

Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord said this highlights a health and hospital system under enormous pressure, buckling under lengthy waits and increased demand.

However, Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSWLHD) Chief Executive Wayne Jones said the report showed that emergency departments across the district continued to perform well, with increases in numbers of presentations while treatment times remained steady or reduced in many facilities.

"NNSWLHD saw 4.9 per cent more (or 2324) emergency department presentations this quarter (49,445) compared to the same quarter in 2016,” Mr Jones said.

"Despite this, the percentage of patients starting treatment on time improved to 80.1 per cent this year from 79.3 per cent last year.”

Mr Jones pointed out that even with the increase in activity, the median wait time for patients at Lismore Base Hospital in all triages was reduced compared to the same quarter last year.

"The percentage of patients starting treatment on time increased by 2.7 percentage points to 74.5 per cent,” he said.

The increase in patient presentation at the Lismore Base Hospital was attributed to the fact it is a large tertiary referral hospital and the region has a growing and ageing population.

"The current redevelopment of Lismore Base Hospital is evidence of our recognition of the growing health care needs in our region, and our commitment to providing more and better services for the future,” Mr Jones said.

Ballina District Hospital had a 10.5 per cent increase (or 436 more) in presentations, while the time patients waited to start treatment remained steady.

Byron Central Hospital experienced a 10.5 per cent increase (or 523 more) in presentations, while the time patients waited to start treatment dropped or remained steady in each triage category.

Despite this large increase, 84 per cent of patients still left the ED within four hours across the NNSWLHD.

Meanwhile, in elective surgery performance there was a 6.5 per cent increase (227) over the quarter, compared to the same period in 2016.

The timeliness of performance also remained strong, with 98 per cent of patients receiving their elective surgery on time.

"The figures show that the systems to manage patient surgeries continued to perform well despite a climate of high emergency activity,” Mr Jones said.

Lismore Base Hospital performed 76 more surgeries (an increase of 6.5 per cent) for the quarter than in the same period in 2016.

"We are responding to an increased demand for surgical services and conducting more surgeries to meet this demand,” Mr Jones said.

Mr Jones said the NNSWLHD is always looking at ways to improve patient flow throughout their hospitals.

"This includes working with bed managers, clinicians and systems to identify areas where we can improve efficiencies,” Mr Jones said.