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Report reveals patients presenting to Hunter EDs are ‘sicker’


A new report has revealed that patients presenting to emergency departments across the Hunter New England Local Health District (HNELHD) are sicker and in need of more urgent care.

Outlined in the Bureau of Health Information Health Care Quarterly data, the district also saw an increase in patients coming for emergency treatment at local hospitals.

Despite it being one of the most challenging periods for staff, patients and the community due to the COVID-19 outbreak, according to health officials, the hospital continued to provide high quality care.

HNELHD chief executive Michael DiRienzo said it showed the region’s healthcare workers performed exceptionally well under pressure.

“The latest quarterly shows patients who presented to our hospitals between July and September were sicker and required more urgent attention compared with the same period last year,” he said.

“Our highly-trained staff took this increase in demand in their stride and continued to provide outstanding care.”

ED attendances at hospitals rose during the quarter – 107,396 patients required care, an increase of 4,685 on the previous year.

There was also an almost 20% increase in triage category 2 (emergency) presentations, where the patient needs to be treated within 10 minutes.

More than 13,500 triage patients were cared for this quarter, an increase of 2,219 presentations compared with the previous year (11,300).

This increase in critically ill patients was a trend experienced across the entire district.

John Hunter Hospital experienced a 57.4% jump in triage category 2 (emergency) and there was a 33.7% increase in triage category 3 presentations.

Spikes were also observed at Muswellbrook, Belmont, Cessnock, Maitland and Singleton hospitals.

HNELHD also performed 7,684 elective surgeries, a decrease of 352 surgeries compared with the previous year.

Across the district, 98% of these procedures were delivered on time, this is well ahead of the state average of 92.3%.

The best performing hospitals include Calvary Mater Newcastle, Cessnock, Muswellbrook and Singleton, whose surgical performance is on par with or better than their peer group hospitals.

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