Hospital figures reveal system in decline: AMA (NSW) President
- On June 16, 2021
The latest Bureau of Health Information results for January to March 2021 clearly reveal a system in decline, said AMA (NSW) President, Dr Danielle McMullen.
“It’s like watching a car crash in slow motion. Across the board, the five-year trends in activity and performance for emergency departments, ambulance services, admitted patients and elective surgical procedures all reveal a system that is struggling to cope with the current demand.”
Emergency department presentations have rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, with a 6.2% increase in Triage category 2 (emergency) presentations.
The number of emergency department patients treated within the clinically recommended time frames fell 1.7 percentage points from the same quarter the previous year, while the number of patients who spent four hours or less in the emergency department was down 3.0 percentage points compared to the same quarter in 2020 – this was the lowest percentage of patients who spent four hours or less in the ED for any quarter over the past five years.
“We’re seeing an increase in patients who require emergency care and a corresponding decline in our ability to treat patients within the clinically recommended timelines. It’s a recipe for disaster,” Dr McMullen said.
“The sharp decline in transfer of care from paramedics to ED staff is also alarming.”
The BHI figures reveal that the percentage of ambulance arrivals with a transfer of care time within 30 minutes was 83.8% in January to March 2021, the lowest of any quarter in the five-year period.
In January to March 2021, ambulance responses for P1 (emergency) and P2 (urgent) cases were the highest of any January to March quarter in the five-year period.
“Ambulances are responding to more call outs than ever before, and they are increasingly dealing with patients with higher priority needs.
“We’ve also seen a return to pre-COVID levels in hospital bed days for admitted patients. We’ve got more patients with acute healthcare needs. It’s just not sustainable.”
In January to March 2021, the number of hospital bed days for acute episodes was the highest of any January to March 2021 quarter in the five-year period.
Hospitals performed 58,044 elective surgeries in Jan-Mar 2021 – the highest number of elective surgeries performed in every urgency category of any January to March quarter in the five-year period.
“While almost all urgent procedures are being performed on time, there’s been a significant drop in semi-urgent and non-urgent elective surgeries being performed on time.
“We note that compared with the same quarter the previous year, the percentage of surgery performed on time was lower this quarter in 60 out of the 77 large public hospitals reported on individually. That tells us that this is a system-wide problem.”
The number of patients added to the list was 13,357 (up 8.0%) for urgent surgery, 20,435 (up 10.0%) for semi-urgent surgery and 24,322 (down 0.5%) for non-urgent surgery.
“Without solutions in place to address these problems, it’s difficult to see how we are going to improve our public hospitals to meet the growing demand.
“We've been calling for greater resourcing of our hospitals to address these problems and the AMA has recently released a blueprint for a new funding approach.
“We’re calling for simplified funding arrangements, which see the Commonwealth increasing their contribution to 50% for activity, as well as providing funding for improvement and capacity.
“This would leave States and Territories with an additional 5% for funds to invest into improved capacity and quality of care. “We are long overdue for a fair cost sharing agreement,” Dr McMullen said.
Media Contact: Andrea Cornish
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