Illawarra ED waiting times fall short of targets

Nearly 35,000 people visited emergency departments at hospitals throughout the Illawarra and Shoalhaven between April and June, and 70 per cent of them left within four hours.

The district average falls short of the National Emergency Access Target, which requires hospitals to process 81 per cent of patients through EDs within four hours, but is close to the state average of 72 per cent for the quarter.

Figures for individual hospitals within the region varied widely, with smaller hospitals like Milton Ulladulla exceeding the national target at 84 per cent; while major hospitals, including Wollongong and Shoalhaven, fell below at 66 per cent.

Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District acting director of clinical operations Suzanne Harris said the Bureau of Health Information (BHI) report was an important snapshot of the district's performance.

"[It] gives us the opportunity to see what we are doing well and what areas need some work," Ms Harris said.

"Wollongong Hospital's performance during the April to June quarter has remained steady.

"Emergency departments across the district continued to see high numbers of presentations ahead of the winter season.

"There has been an overall improvement in the number of patients treated within four hours; Shellharbour Hospital [70 per cent] saw a 13 per cent improvement compared with the same period last year."

Ms Harris said there had been an increase in the number of elective surgeries performed across the district compared with the previous quarter, particularly in the urgent and semi-urgent categories.

Nearly 55,000 elective surgeries were performed in NSW public hospitals from April to June - 2903 of them in the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District.

"The district's elective surgery performance remained strong, with 99 per cent of all patients receiving their procedure on time," Ms Harris said.

"The district is constantly working on new initiatives aimed at better managing increases in demand across the board, while delivering services that are safe and within clinically appropriate time frames."

BHI chief executive Dr Jean-Frederic Levesque said the volume of services that NSW public hospitals provided had increased during the quarter.

"Hospitals recorded 2 per cent more admitted patient episodes and 3 per cent more patients visiting emergency departments, although elective surgeries are stable compared to the same quarter one year ago," Dr Levesque said.

The times that the majority of patients left the emergency department had decreased and were the lowest for the quarter over the past five years.

"The average time that admitted patients are spending in hospital is unchanged compared with the same quarter last year."

However, Opposition Leader John Robertson said the health figures showed the performances of hospitals in many regional districts were short of targets. Outside of Sydney, emergency departments were struggling across the Hunter, the Illawarra - particularly Wollongong and Shoalhaven - and the North Coast, he said.


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