Labor is ramping up its campaign for the seat of Goulburn, 18 months out from the State election.
In the latest foray, Shadow Health spokesman Walt Secord has criticised waiting times at Goulburn Base Hospital. During a visit to the city on Thursday he highlighted the April to June Bureau of Health Information data for the facility.
”More than 20 per cent (20.4pc) of patients at Goulburn hospital waited longer than four hours in the emergency department; that is one in five patients” Mr Secord said.
“More than 47pc of patients in emergency were in triage four and five categories – the two least urgent categories, showing that patients were unable to get to bulk billing or after hours GP services.
“And during the April to June, 2017 period, about 400 patients waited longer than five hours and 11 minutes in emergency.”
He blamed staffing but also what he said were patients “flooding into emergency because they couldn’t get into a GP.”
“Goulburn Base Hospital – particularly its emergency department is under enormous pressure,” he said.
NSW Nurses and Midwives Association member Anna Wurth-Crawford also said nurses at Goulburn Base were doing overtime to make up the shortfall.
Mr Secord denied exaggerating the data, which also showed the median waiting time in emergency was two hours and four minutes. It also revealed the hospital experienced a 168 per cent increase in emergency presentations on the same time last year, to 4301 patients. Southern NSW Local Health District representatives recently told a public meeting in Goulburn this was largely due to flu and gastro conditions.
Mr Secord has also drawn attention to elective surgery waiting times. The data showed that as of June 30, 642 patients were waiting for elective surgery. It included 341 for orthopaedic procedures, 139 for cataract removal, 135 for knee replacements, 83 for hip replacements, 20 for hernia operations and 11 for tonsillectomies. The median waiting time for non-urgent surgery was 233 days but orthopaedic patients were waiting 329 days.
“It would not be acceptable in Sydney and I know some areas of western Sydney are not waiting as long,” he said.
The State Government recently announced it would allocate an extra $3 million to tackle elective surgery. Asked what Labor would do, Mr Secord said it wanted to firstly formulate a plan.
Labor has estimated a $60 to $80m commitment to address elective surgery waiting times.
Mr Secord also doubted the government’s $120m allocation to the hospital’s redevelopment was enough but declined to say how much the Opposition would commit.
“It will be substantial,” he said.
Meantime, a spokesman for the Southern NSW Local Health District (SNSWLHD) said The Bureau of Health Information (BHI) quarterly report for April to June, 2017 showed that 93.4 per cent of patients at Goulburn Base Hospital received their elective surgery on time.
“The BHI report shows a continued overall improvement in Goulburn Base Hospital’s elective surgery waiting times since 2011,” he said.
“There has been a 47 per cent increase in the number of orthopaedic surgeries conducted at Goulburn Base Hospital compared to the same period last year.
“The hospital works continually to ensure patients receive their surgeries as soon as possible. The SNSWLHD recruited two orthopaedic surgeons in October 2016, bringing the total full time equivalent clinical workforce across the LHD to 2,189.”
A spokesman previously told The Post there were no plans to employ more surgeons at the hospital. Nevertheless, strategies were in place to reduce the waiting list, including allocation of operating theatre lists based on demand and employment of locums to cover absences and/or to provide additional operating sessions “as required.”
“The hospital works with surgeons to improve the efficiency of theatre sessions and to ensure the appropriateness of the urgency category, and overall to reduce surgery waiting times,” he said.
The treating doctor determined the level of urgency and the patient should receive their surgery within the “clinical priority classification timeframe.”
Elective surgery is performed five days a week. The hospital has three general surgeons, four orthopaedic surgeons, one gynaecologist, two opthalmologists, one ear, nose and throat surgeon and one urologist.