The Bureau of Health Information quarterly report for January to March 2022 reveals all parts of the public hospital system are under strain and we need system reform and sustained funding to avert the looming healthcare crisis.
“This report reflects the healthcare system as it grappled with Omicron and an elective surgery shutdown. We knew the numbers would be bad. However, what is really disturbing is the long-term trend that we’re seeing in terms of escalating numbers of patients needing treatment and the health system’s diminishing ability to meet that demand,” said AMA (NSW) President, Dr Michael Bonning.
“The AMA has been highlighting the issues that contribute to logjam in hospitals and today’s numbers exemplify this problem very clearly. We’re losing ground on almost every target,” Dr Bonning said.
Triage Category 2 presentations were up 8.2% (compared with January to March 2019) and only 57.1% of Category 2 patients had their treatment start on time – lower than any January to March quarter since the BHI began reporting in 2010.
People in this category are suffering from a critical illness or in very severe pain. People in Category 2 need to have treatment within 10 minutes and are categorised as having an imminently life-threatening condition, such as serious chest pains, sepsis, acute respiratory distress, or severe fractures.
“People are arriving to hospital later, sicker, and staying longer than ever before. We have an ageing population that is increasingly presenting to hospital with complex comorbidities.
“The average length of stay for patients is increasing and this is impacting on the emergency department’s ability to transfer people to wards. When EDs become full, ambulances can’t transfer their patients, and when patients can’t be transferred to EDs, call out times get longer.
“This is why health reform is so important. We backed the Premier’s call to look at ways to integrate the system and relieve some of the pressure in our public hospitals.
“To achieve that we need a long-term investment in health. The AMA has been strongly calling for a redress of the health funding split between the Commonwealth and State Government. We’ve asked the Commonwealth to increase its contribution to 50% for activity and remove the 6.5% cap on funding growth.
“We need to build capacity in the system and that can’t be done without significant investment.
“We are pleased by NSW’s pre-Budget commitments to health and suggest this is a good direction – but it’s only a start. The State Government must also make a genuine long-term commitment for sustained investment in our healthcare system. We want a vision for health that is backed by funding for the next decade, not just until the next election,” Dr Bonning said.
“While the BHI quarterly report provides an important snapshot on the delivery of healthcare in NSW, there is an array of hospital care that can’t be measured that is critical to patients. We want to ensure all parts of the system are recognised by the State Government in the next Budget.
“We also need a long-term plan for elective surgery that enables public patients to access elective surgery in public hospitals. The Government needs to ensure private hospital arrangements are limited and that the strength and balance between our public and private health systems isn’t compromised,” Dr Bonning said
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