Amidst bushfires, floods, and a global pandemic, NSW healthcare workers have proved they excel at delivering top quality care in a health system that is struggling, said AMA (NSW) President, Dr Danielle McMullen, in response to the release of the AMA’s Public Hospital Report Card 2021.
The AMA’s Public Hospital Report Card 2021 highlights public hospital performance across Australia’s States and Territories.
“NSW’s health system is one of the best in the country and given what we have been dealing with – particularly over the last six months – this is something our healthcare professionals and everyone in the system should be proud of.
“However, these figures – combined with the State-based Bureau of Health Information data – show a steady decline in the State’s ability to meet the healthcare needs of residents. Even before COVID, we were hitting record numbers of ED attendances, which we know is linked to our growing population that is increasingly presenting with complex chronic diseases.
“Healthcare workers are overworked and overtired,” Dr McMullen said.
According to AMA (NSW)’s Senior Doctor Pulse Check, which surveyed 1023 senior public hospital doctors in NSW, eight in 10 senior doctors are experiencing workplace stress, with the majority citing excessive workloads (~60%) and lack of resources (~69%).
“We need greater resourcing to ensure we can alleviate the pressure on healthcare workers who are at risk of burn out,” Dr McMullen added.
In NSW, the Public Hospital Report Card 2021 found an improvement in the percentage of urgent emergency department patients seen within the recommended time of 30 minutes (76% compared to 74% in 2018-19). This was the best performance of any State and Territory, which averaged 67%.
“We note that during COVID-19 lockdowns, while presentations related to COVID were up, there was a significant reduction in hospitalisation from accidents, injuries and illness.
“Now that NSW is returning to COVID-normal life, we’re concerned we’ll start to see a return in the types of non-COVID activity hospitals faced previously.
“The real question is ‘how will we cope?’ under this additional pressure,” Dr McMullen said.
The AMA’s Public Hospital Report Card 2021 also revealed that fewer emergency department visits were completed in four hours or less in NSW (from 72% to 71%). The national average is 69%.
This performance was against a backdrop of the number of patients presenting to EDs dropping 1.4 per cent in 2019-20, a temporary reversal of the trend of 3.2 per cent year-on-year growth over the previous five years.
In NSW, there was a fall in the percentage of category 2 elective surgery patients admitted within the recommended time of 90 days. The percentage of patients in 2019-20 fell to 93% compared with 97% the previous year, however, NSW was well ahead of the average of 75% for other states and territories. All states and territories recorded falls in this category.
NSW was one of the worst performing states for overall elective surgery, median wait time dropped slightly with COVID (only Tasmania fared worse).
AMA Federal President, Dr Omar Khorshid said, “if we look closely at the data there are signs that hospitals, if given the capacity they need, can improve their performance.
“Fewer admissions during the lockdown led to more free beds for those waiting for admission from the ED, therefore freeing up the ED to treat those still waiting outside. That tells us that performance can be improved if we give hospitals the beds, the staff and the resources to do it,” Dr Khorshid said.
Media contact: Andrea Cornish – 0419 402 955