Emergency staff overworked with little relief

EDITORIAL: Health system can only stretch so far

ALBURY and Wodonga hospitals’ emergency departments are fast becoming more congested, figures to be released today reveal.

But the statistics also show more patients are being treated quickly.

A total of 8394 patients sought treatment at Albury hospital’s emergency department in the three months to the end of September.

This was 451 more than the number who presented at the department between May and June last year.

Wodonga hospital’s emergency department experienced a similar surge in demand during the same period, up by 170 presentations to 6630.

Victorian Health Minister David Davis said the latest Victorian Health Services Performance data showed both Albury Wodonga Health campuses were performing well.

The figures come just a month after The Border Mail revealed ambulances were being “ramped” at Albury and Wodonga hospitals for up to two hours, meaning paramedics were having to treat patients on stretchers as they waited for a ward bed to become available.

Albury Wodonga Health chief executive Stuart Spring said at the time that a lack of beds and an outdated Albury hospital emergency department had exacerbated the situation.

Albury MP Greg Aplin is chasing NSW government funding for either a new or significantly revamped emergency department, both options favoured by Dr Spring.

Ambulance arrivals at Albury hospital’s emergency department totalled 1894 for the September quarter, up from 1849 in the corresponding quarter in 2012.

In Wodonga, ambulance arrivals totalled 799 for the September quarter, up from 739 the previous year.

The government trumpeted the Albury and Wodonga hospitals’ ability to treat 100 per cent of category-one emergency patients on arrival at the emergency departments.

A category-one patient is someone who has to be seen immediately on arrival, including those who have suffered a major trauma or a heart attack.

A total of 86 per cent of category-two patients were seen at Albury within the required 10 minutes of arrival in the department, up from 83 per cent in the September 2012 quarter.

That was above the statewide target of 80 per cent.

Wodonga managed to treat 82 per cent of category-two emergency department patients, up from 78 per cent.

Mr Davis said the statewide data showed emergency patients were being treated more quickly, with a median time-to-treatment in emergency departments of 21 minutes.

That, he said, was down from 22 minutes a year earlier.

Mr Davis said hospitals had also improved on the proportion of emergency department patients treated and released within four hours, increasing from 63 per cent in the September 2012 quarter to 66 per cent last year.

Source:  Victorian Health Services Performance data

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