Authorities are urging people with flu-like symptoms to seek out their GP in light of a spike in overall emergency department presentations at Goulburn Base Hospital.
The latest Bureau of Health Information data reveals an 8.5 per cent jump in presentations between April and June, 2018, compared with the same period the previous year. This represented 4665 patients versus 4301 presentations. The bulk of these (1895) for the three months this year were classed as semi-urgent, up from 1697 or 11.7pc on the corresponding timeframe in 2017.
But there was also an increase of 74 people presenting for the top three triage categories – resuscitation, emergency and urgent over the same period.
Southern NSW Local Health District chief executive Andrew Newton said while the number of patients going to emergency remained low, the department was still very busy.
“The Local Health District is managing this patient load very successfully but it’s important people understand that emergency departments must prioritise more urgent cases,” he said.
“There has been a steep jump in patients presenting with very urgent and critical illnesses, up by more than 11 per cent in June, 2018 compared with the same time last year.”
People are being urged to visit their GP or call the 24-hour service, HealthDirect, (1800 022 222) for advice.
The median waiting time in emergency was two hours, 34 minutes. It compared to two hours, 27 minutes for April to June, 2017. Some 76pc of patients spent four hours or less there, according to the data. A total 923 patients arrived by ambulance versus 862 for the same period in 2017.
Across the Health District, there were 1567 more emergency presentations from April to June, 2018, compared to the corresponding months in 2017. A total 84pc left the department within four hours, the figures showed.
While Mr Newton said the waiting times at Goulburn were a “solid result” given the increased presentations, local nurses have renewed their call for improved resourcing. The NSW Nurses and Midwives Association is lobbying for a one nurse to three patients ratio in emergency at Goulburn Base and a 1:4 ratio in medical and surgical wards.
Branch president Kate O’Neill said the reality was that nurses were still expected to “do more with less.”
“In NSW there are currently no minimum standards for nurse-to-patient ratios in emergency departments. A new system that guarantees nurse-to-patient ratios in every ward on every shift should exist in both the city and the country and will provide a clear and accountable and transparent system that patients can rely on and nurses can trust,” she said.
“The NSWNMA Goulburn Base Hospital Branch is asking that people come and support the local nurses and midwives that are advocating for the benefit of our community and our patients in demanding equality in healthcare. We are asking community groups and politicians to sign the ‘We support improved and extended nurse to patient ratios’ pledge next week at the Rally for Ratios on Tuesday, September 18 at 12.30pm in Victoria Park, opposite the High School.”
Meantime, 100pc of those waiting for urgent or semi-urgent elective surgery at Goulburn Base (232 people) underwent their operations within the clinically recommended timeframes. A total 98.8pc received non-urgent elective surgery within the recommended time period.
The data showed that the median waiting time for general surgery grew from 39 days in the April to June quarter, 2017 to 55 days for the same period in 2018. People also waited a median 319 days for opthalmology procedures, up from 231 days in 2017. However waiting times for elective knee and hip replacements dropped by 24 days.