Data exposes Wollongong Hospital failings

Wollongong Hospital's emergency department is being swamped and residents are waiting longer for surgery, new data shows.Some 13,781 people sought treatment from the emergency department during January to March this year, representing roughly one new arrival every 10 minutes. More than 4500 arrived by ambulance, but only 57 per cent were handed over to emergency staff within half an hour.That's a deterioration of last year's result, the second worst result for a hospital outside greater Sydney and well short of the 90 per cent target.By comparison, 69 per cent of ambulance arrivals at Shellharbour Hospital were taken off the stretcher within half an hour.The results, contained in the independent Bureau of Health Information's latest quarterly report, confirms Wollongong Hospital is plagued by bed-block.Bed-block is a situation where paramedics are stuck in hallways with patients until beds become available in the emergency department.The report also found 41 per cent of Wollongong Hospital emergency department patients waited longer than eight hours to be admitted to a bed elsewhere in the hospital. The state average is 36 per cent.Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health Network governing council chair Professor Denis King said the data highlighted the pressure facing Wollongong Hospital."Also, we're finding the level of illness of patients who present to the hospital is higher on average than practically anywhere in the state," he said."We're seeing far more patients, people who are sicker and that creates a problem."The data also detected an increase in elective surgery waiting times.Patients are waiting 313 days for non-urgent elective surgery at Wollongong Hospital, 24 days more than the result recorded during the same quarter in 2010. The state average is 217 days.Semi-urgent elective surgery waiting periods rose 11 days to 76 days.

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