Wait times blow out for some elective procedures at Wollongong Hospital: BHI report

More than 1500 elective surgeries were performed at Wollongong Hospital from December to October 2017.
More than 1500 elective surgeries were performed at Wollongong Hospital from December to October 2017.

Some patients are waiting more than 400 days for elective procedures such as joint replacement and cataracts at Wollongong Hospital, new figures reveal.

Only 73.4 per cent of non-urgent surgeries were carried out within the recommended timeframe (365 days) at the hospital from October to December 2017 according to the latest Hospital Quarterly report.

That’s down 22.5 percentage points from the same quarter last year, and is way below the state average of 96.4 per cent for non-urgent procedures.

Wollongong Hospital did carry out 100 per cent of urgent elective procedures on time (within 30 days) during the quarter; and 88.6 per cent of semi-urgent cases (within 90 days).

However the poor results dragged down the performance for the entire health district according to Dr Diane Watson, the chief executive of the Bureau of Health Information which produces the report.

“The elective surgery performed is down for the Illawarra Shoalhaven region, and that decline is principally driven by the performance at Wollongong Hospital,” she said.

“Across the state almost all (97.5 per cent) patients are receiving elective surgery within clinically recommended timeframes across all categories (urgent, semi-urgent, non-urgent).

“Across all categories in Wollongong, the figure is only 89 per cent.”

However ISLHD Executive Director Clinical Operations Margaret Martin said a range of initiatives were in place to improve performance.

“Wollongong Hospital is currently working in collaboration with relevant departments to create extra capacity to increase surgical performance for those patients waiting longer than expected for their procedures.

“The district continues to review and implement local strategies to improve surgery waiting times, including specific plans for attending to the most urgent patients and offering vacant operating lists to specialties with the highest demand.”

Ms Martin said the district had recently been successful in receiving $512,000 for cataract surgery as part of the NSW Government’s $3 million fund on elective surgery: “The funding will ensure more cataract removal procedures will be performed this financial year”.

All up 1501 elective procedures were carried out at Wollongong Hospital during the period, with 2384 patients still on the waiting list as at December 31, 2017.

Emergency department performance remained stable during the quarter across the district, with 70 per cent of patients leaving the ED within the four-hour state benchmark.

“ED attendances for the quarter increased, compared with the same period last year, to almost 40,000 presentations,” Ms Martin said.

“Despite the increase in patients, ISLHD’s overall performance in Transfer of Care improved compared with the same period last year. This means that over 91 per cent of patients arriving by ambulance had their care transferred to ED staff within benchmark time.”

Meantime at Shellharbour Hospital, Ms Martin said there was a review underway of current practices and an investigation of “more efficient models of care” to improve patient wait times within the ED.

“The initiatives being looked at include increasing nurse practitioner hours and senior assessment streaming within the department.”


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