Hunter hospitals’ report card improves

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A fall in emergency presentations and a rise in people waiting for surgery – the latest Healthcare Quarterly report on the region’s hospitals is out today and it presented no surprises, given it was conducted at the height of COVID-19 restrictions.

Hunter New England Local Health District’s Chief Executive Michael DiRienzo said the district’s hospitals’ performances remained strong.

“Our focus now is on rescheduling semi-urgent and non-urgent elective surgeries that had to be postponed and ensuring those with long term, chronic conditions are getting treatment,” he said.

Overall, emergency department attendances across the district decreased significantly by 17.3%, or 18,495 less presentations.

The number of patients starting emergency care on time increased to 82.1%, an increase of 8.6 percentage points, while there was a 6.2% decrease in ambulance arrivals.

There were 17,546 emergency department presentations at John Hunter Hospital during the April – June 2020 quarter, 3,938 less presentations than in 2019.

The hospital also improved its transfer of care result, with 96.6 percent of 5,343 patients transferred from ambulances to the emergency department within 30 minutes, given the significant 9.1% decrease in ambulance arrivals at the hospital this quarter.

Hospitals across the district experienced similar large drops in presentations including Maitland Hospital with a decrease of 20.3% or 2,631 less patients.

The Federal Government’s decision to pause non-urgent surgeries has impacted the number of patients who were on the district’s waiting list and ready for their elective surgery or procedure. 

“Our focus is now on ensuring patients who had their surgery postponed to have their procedure rescheduled and performed as soon as possible,” Mr DiRienzo said.

“A staged reintroduction of non-urgent surgeries will ensure equipment, supplies and treatment spaces remain available for all patients, including any COVID-19 cases,” Mr DiRienzo said.

“Patients waiting for elective surgery will retain their place on the hospital’s waitlist.”

The NSW Government has committed up to $388 million in 2020-21 to fast-track elective surgeries for patients whose surgery has been delayed by COVID-19.

This funding will support collaboration with private providers so public patients have faster access to surgeries and allow public hospitals to also increase surgery capacity.

District hospitals with acute mental health units also tracked well against performance indicators for mental health seclusion and restraint. Seclusion and restraint are only used as a last measure to maintain the safety of the patient, other patients, staff and visitors.

John Hunter Hospital cared for 84 patients and recorded less than five periods of seclusion and 68 periods of physical restraint.

Maitland Hospital cared for 198 patients and implemented 19 periods of seclusion. It met the benchmark of seclusion not exceeding four hours.

The NSW Government is investing $800 million of additional funding into the health system over two years on top of the 2019-20 Health Budget of $26.7 billion to help boost ICU capacity and purchase additional services and medical equipment in response to COVID-19.

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