An independent report released last week revealed that Lismore had the longest waits in emergency department for patients in a rural and regional hospital. This coincides with the auditor-general’s report on health that highlighted state-wide ambulance response times, lack of security and the build up of excessive annual leave as issues.
Lismore Hospital also has some of the longest waiting times in the state for elective surgery according to the independent Bureau of Health Information (BHI) data for the July-September 2016.
Currently, there are 1,593 patients waiting for non-urgent elective surgery at the hospital; the median wait was 330 days.
NSW shadow health minister Walt Secord said patients wait at every stage to receive health assistance, whether it be an ambulance, outside or inside an emergency department. ‘They are [also] discharged too early to make way for another patient needing the bed,’ he said.
In reply, chief executive of Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSW LHD), Wayne Jones, told The Echo he welcomes the latest BHI quarterly report regarding emergency department (ED) performance across the health district, ‘particularly the improvements at Lismore Base Hospital (LBH) following the opening of the new ED.’
‘The new LBH ED opened in September this year, providing patients with access to the most state-of-the-art health care facilities in the region.
‘The BHI Report performance indicators show an improvement in waiting times following the transition to the new ED, and we expect further improvements as the new models of care are bedded down.
‘The new facility has contributed to an increase in the number of patients leaving the ED within four hours or less, as well as an overall decrease in the time taken for patients to be seen by a doctor, compared with the same quarter last year.
‘In particular, the wait time for patients to be seen by a doctor following arrival by ambulance has significantly decreased, as the new facility has delivered a more streamlined patient transfer system.
‘More than 99 percent of patients requiring urgent and semi-urgent elective surgery at LBH received treatment within the clinically recommended timeframes.’
On a state wide basis the ambulance response times, excess annual leave and lack of IT security were highlighted as issues in the latest report from the auditor-general on the NSW health system.
The audit department is charged by parliament to hold government accountable for the use of public resources and conducts both performance and financial audits.
The need to reduce excessive annual leave has not been address effectively according to the audit. However, NSW nurses and midwifes association (NSWNMA) general secretary, Brett Holmes, says the treasury department who set the new leave definitions does ‘not understand the complexity of staffing a health system 24/7.’
Though it changes between hospitals there is a limit to how many nurses can take leave at any one time and those with the most leave are required to take it first. This can result in nurses not being able to take leave at preferred times as well as affecting the possibility for taking long service leave.
‘A nurse working shiftwork accrues up to six weeks annual leave a year and may accrue a further five days pursuant to working on Sundays and public holidays,’ said Holmes.
‘You shouldn’t be determined as having excessive leave when you reach your one year entitlement.’
Concerns were also raised regarding the training and use of IT infrastructure noting the lack of security around passwords and encryption of sensitive data and ‘the risk of inappropriate access and modification to financial data’.
Triage response targets were, on average, being met across the state, however, patients leaving emergency departments within four hours hasn’t improved while NSW ambulance response times remain below target.