Waiting times for elective surgery and emergency department treatment have fallen at hospitals across the Northern Rivers over the past three months, according to the Northern NSW Local Health District.
But the NSW Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord claims that the hospitals are at ‘breaking point’, with ‘more than 5,000 patients waiting for elective surgery’.
In an ebullient media statement following the release of a new Bureau of Health Information report, the health district said that Lismore and Balina hospitals were among six norther coast facilities which had seen an improvement in the number of emergency department patients starting treatment on time.
‘There was a huge improvement in patients starting treatment on time [at Lismore hospital], up 15.9 percentage points to 75.8 per cent,’ the statement said.
‘68.4 per cent of patients left the ED within four hours, a significant improvement compared to 59.5 per cent last year.’
At Ballina Hospital 82.1 per cent of patients started treatment on time, up nine percentage points on last year.
Nearly 81 per cent of patients left the Balina ED within four hours, the statement said, up from 73.5 per cent last year.
However, this was partly explained by a 5.1 per cent fall in the number of people presenting to the ED.
There was a similar fall in presentations at Byron Central Hospital – a surprising statistic given that the hospital is only in its second year of operation.
Tweed Hospital saw 80.8 per cent of patients treated on time, a 3.9 percentage point increase on last year.
Despite this decrease in patients, the percentage of people who started treatment on time and left within four hours has remained roughly the same as the same time last year at around 80 per cent.
The health district also spruiked the elective surgery performance at local hospitals, stating that 97.4 per cent of patients at Ballina hospital received their surgery on time this quarter, with 100 per cent of urgent procedures completed on time.
But Shadow NSW Health Minister Walt Secord took a very different view of the report.
He said it revealed that 5020 patients are currently waiting for elective surgery across the Northern NSW Local Health District, 51 on whom had been waiting for more than a year.
‘The north coast health and hospital system lurches from crisis to crisis: long waits emergency department waits in Lismore, huge waits for elective surgery in Ballina – and the debacle over the controversial site selection for the Tweed hospital,’ Mr Secord said.
‘The north coast health and hospital system continues to be under pressure with long waits in emergency departments and long waits for elective surgery – whether it is cataract removal, knee and hip replacements or haemorrhoid removal.’
Mr Secord referred to a number of specific examples in making his case. These included pointing out that the median wait for a total knee replacement for Lismore Hospital patients was 351 days, an increase of 21 days compared with the same time last year.
Some other median waiting times included:
- 338 days for cataract removal at Lismore Hospital (up 21 days on last year)
- 329 days for total hip replacement at Lismore (up 14 days on last year)
- 210 days for total knee replacement at Murwillumbah (up 140 days)
- 137 days for hernia operation at Tweed (up 61 days)
- 94 days for hernia operation at Ballina (up 36 days)
- 73 days for hip replacement (up 73 days)