MP slams Maitland Hospital emergency wait times

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If you’ve ever felt frustrated, annoyed or even aggrieved while attending Maitland Hospital’s Emergency Department (ED), then here’s your chance to do something about it.

Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison is calling on Lower Hunter residents to tell the NSW Parliament’s Rural Health Inquiry about their experiences at the facility as new figures reveal a worsening, systemic healthcare crisis in the region.

Bureau of Health Information (BHI) figures show that from July to September patients who dealt with Maitland Hospital’s ED endured the longest wait times of any at hospitals in the Hunter New England Local Health District (HNELHD).

“One in 10 patients at the Maitland ED waited almost nine hours, which was more than an hour than the next-longest wait at the John Hunter Hospital,” Ms Aitchison said.

“These are people who have come to their local hospital seeking emergency help.

“They are in an acute state of concern, illness or pain.

“But, due to the Berejiklian government’s chronic under-funding and mismanagement of our public health system, there’s been no way for our hard-working nurses and doctors to see them more quickly.”

More than 40 per cent of patients presenting to Maitland Hospital’s emergency department spent more than four hours waiting to be seen in the ED.

“These Bureau of Health Information figures show that Maitland people are experiencing the longest emergency department wait times in the Hunter New England Local Health District across all three metrics,” Ms Aitchison said.

The NSW public health system is also straining under the waitlist for elective surgery, with BHI statistics showing that, between July and September, more than 95,000 patients across the state were awaiting the call for their life-changing surgery.

“Year on year we’ve had an increase of 11.8 per cent of people waiting in our emergency departments,” Ms Aitchison said.

“These figures are the result of a decade of neglect and under-resourcing from the NSW Government.

“It’s got to stop.”

But, HNELHD chief executive Michael DiRienzo admitted he was pleased with the BHI results and knows how hard staff have worked during the July to September quarter to get the district back to where it was prior to the height of COVID-19.

“This term came after the first wave of the pandemic, at a time where we were working hard to restart elective surgery and transition safely back to a new normal,” he said.

“Overall, the results are as expected, with a fall in emergency presentations and visits to our hospitals and a rise in people waiting for surgery as National Cabinet paused non-urgent surgery to respond to the coronavirus situation.

“Our focus remains on ensuring that patients who had their surgery postponed due to COVID-19, receive their surgery as soon as possible and we are working with our private hospital partners to further boost our elective surgery capacity.”

Overall, ED attendances across the district decreased significantly by 6.7 per cent or 7434 fewer attendances to 102,711 for the quarter.

There were 21,019 ED patients at John Hunter Hospital during the July – September 2020 period, 1049 less presentations than in 2019.

Hospitals across the district experienced similar large drops in ED attendances including Maitland with 7.4 per cent or 975 fewer patients, compared to Manning (7.9 per cent or 672 fewer patients), Armidale (11 per cent or 498 fewer patients), Inverell (21.8 per cent or 537 fewer patients) and Moree (13.5 per cent or 351 fewer patients).

However, the district’s rural and regional hospitals have worked hard this quarter to improve ED wait times and time to treatment, according to Mr DiRienzo.

“Faced with a drop in the number of ED attendances during this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our rural and regional hospitals have taken this opportunity to improve ED wait times and ensure our patients are being seen as soon as possible,” he said.

Meanwhile, Labor’s Shadow Minister for Rural Health Port Stephens MP Kate Washington also urged anyone with concerns about their treatment in the healthcare system to take part in the Parliamentary Inquiry.

“Submissions to the parliamentary inquiry close on Sunday 13 December, so there is still time to raise your voice and share your story,” she said.

To make a submission to the inquiry, visit: https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/committees/inquiries/Pages/lodge-a-submission.aspx?pk=2615