Thousands of Illawarra patients are leaving emergency departments without, or before completing, treatment as wait times rise across the region.
Wollongong Hospital had the third highest waiting times in the state according to the latest hospital snapshot - with more than 40 per cent of people waiting longer than the recommended four hours.
The latest Bureau of Health Information Healthcare Quarterly report shows that just 56.3 per cent of patients left Wollongong's ED within four hours from April to June.
That's down 10.7 percentage points from the same quarter the previous year, when 67 per cent of patients left within the recommended timeframe.
It was a busier quarter for the hospital, with 18,075 presentations to the ED in the three months in 2019 - more than 1000 than the same period in 2018.
And there was an increase in the most urgent cases - with triage 1 presentations rising 70 per cent, and triage 2 by 24 percent.
However the long waits contributed to more than 1500 patients leaving the ED without the treatment required.
"Wollongong had a substantial increase in ED visits," BHI senior director Hilary Rowell. "But overall the proportion of patients treated on time was just trailing the peer group average (of 60.4 per cent for all principal referral hospitals)."
However Labor's health spokesman Ryan Park said the independent data revealed the "enormous pressure" on hospitals across the region, and the state.
Across NSW, there were more than 750,000 presentations to EDs - with 70 per cent of patients leaving within four hours.
Hospital EDs across the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District saw just over 41,500 presentations - almost 3000 more than the same period last year.
Almost 62 per cent left the ED within the benchmark; though 3322 left without full treatment.
"Our hospitals are clearly now at breaking point thanks to the government's neglect and patient care will decline as a result," Mr Park said.
"Locals have every right to expect the government to make sure there's a strong, well-resourced public health system that's meeting the needs of our region."
Wollongong MP Paul Scully said quarter after quarter, the figures were showing that Wollongong Hospital was under more and more pressure.
He said despite the obvious need, the state government had recently refused to fund a $1 million upgrade to the hospital's 'ghost ward' which would have made 35 additional beds available.
"The growth in patient demand and demands on our health and hospital system is relentless," he said.
Shellharbour Hospital too is feeling the heat - with more than 8000 presentations to ED from April to June. Five hundred people left without full treatment.
Around 65 per cent of patients left Shellharbour's ED within the four-hour benchmark - down 3.4 percentage points on the same period last year.
Elective surgery wait lists continued to rise across the district. More than 3450 elective procedures took place, however over 6000 patients remained on the waiting list at the end of the quarter.
ISLHD executive director clinical operations Margaret Martin said nearly 90 per cent of the elective procedures were completed within clinically recommended timeframes across the district.
She said hospital emergency departments across the district had dealt with rising demand. At Wollongong, this had been compounded by the large proportion of patients requiring complex assessment and treatment given the rise in T1 (resusitation) and T2 (emergency) presentations.