Labor MPs raise concerns over declining hospital performance

CCLHD had the worst emergency department performance in the state last quarter

Labor MPs on the Central Coast have raised concerns over declining performance at Gosford and Wyong hospitals following the latest Quarterly Report from the Bureau of Health Information (BHI).

Data for the quarter from January to March, 2022, reveals Central Coast Local Health District (CCLHD) had the worst emergency department performance in the state with 51.5 per cent of patients waiting over four hours for treatment.

But Central Coast Local Health District (CCLHD) stressed that the four-hour period includes triage and any tests ordered by doctors in deciding how to proceed.

The data also reveals increases in the number of patients waiting for an ambulance to arrive and an 11.6 per cent increase across the health district in wait times for non-urgent elective surgeries.

Shadow Minister for the Central Coast, David Harris, said the figures were cause for concern.

“My office is being contacted regularly by patients who are experiencing long wait times and health workers who are being pushed to the limit to try and meet extra demand,” he said.

Member for Swansea, Yasmin Catley, said the data shows the impacts of 12 years of neglect from the Liberal Government.

“I have heard firsthand from health workers the pressure they are under and the data backs that up,” she said.

“It is simply not acceptable to have people being left waiting hours for an ambulance.”

Member for Gosford, Liesl Tesch, said the information would not shock any nurse or paramedic who works at Gosford Hospital or in the community.

“They experience this daily,” she said.

CCLHD Chief Executive, Scott McLachlan, said staff continued to provide high quality and safe care during the peak of the Omicron outbreak from January to March 2022 despite it being “another challenging period for our staff, patients and community”.

“The huge number of COVID-19 cases in the community not only presented serious challenges with respect to complex presentations and admissions to our hospitals but also due to significant staff unavailability as staff contracted or were exposed to the virus, whether in the community or at work,” he said.

“During the quarter there were 36,571 attendances at CCLHD emergency departments (EDs).

“CCLHD is committed to providing patients with safe and timely care and we have a number of strategies in place to reduce waiting and treatment times in our EDs.

“This includes opening additional beds throughout both Gosford and Wyong hospitals to allow us to admit patients and transfer them out of the emergency department more quickly.”

McLachlan said additional beds in emergency short stay units (ESSU) had also been supplied.

“These units are designed for patients who have presented to the emergency department and require short-term treatment, observation and assessment for a period of less than 24 hours,” he said.

“Moving patients to the ESSU frees up emergency department beds for other patients.

“We also continue to recruit additional doctors and nurses to help us care for patients.”

He said the continuing COVID Community Support Service provides virtual care to people requiring medical, nursing or allied health support in the comfort of their homes, reducing the need to present to emergency departments.

“Between July 2021 and March 2022, this service provided care for more than 4,700 people,” he said.

“We also continue to care for approximately 30 patients with COVID-19 each day in our hospitals.

“In response to the Omicron outbreak, non-urgent elective surgery requiring an overnight stay was suspended from January 10, 2022, in public hospitals across NSW and resumed in a staged manner in February.

“Despite this necessary pause, we performed 1,661 elective surgeries during the January to March 2022 quarter.”

McLachlan said it was important to note the restrictions did not impact patients requiring urgent elective surgery with almost all (96.4 per cent) patients requiring urgent elective surgery having surgery within the recommended timeframe.

“We have long-term recovery plans in place to ensure patients have their elective surgery as soon as possible,” he said.

“This includes adding more operating theatre sessions at our hospitals as well as continuing to partner with private hospitals to perform some surgeries on our behalf to reduce the length of time patients are required to wait.”

In 2020-21 the NSW Government provided an extra $458.5M to fast-track elective surgeries and $80M was provided as part of the 2021-22 NSW Budget.

“The NSW Government has committed more than $4B to the NSW health system to manage the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020.

“Between mid-2012 and mid-2021, the District increased its workforce by an additional 1,265 full-time equivalent staff – an increase of 28.7 per cent including 239 more doctors, 519 more nurses and midwives and 131 more allied health staff.

“The District is also set to get a major workforce boost as part of the 2022-23 Budget.”

Terry Collins

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