GP referral scheme in southern emergency departments is
designed to skew ED waiting times to make Government health
statistics look better, Dunedin North Labour MP David Clark
Dr Clark likened the situation to the recent revelation of
the re-coding of about 700 burglaries in Counties Manukau,
which had made the area's crime statistics look better. The
six-hour wait target is one of six measures chosen by the
Government to show how well the health service is
Results are widely publicised, the ED target putting health
boards under intense pressure to shorten waiting times. From
this week, ED nursing staff are due to refer up to 20
patients at Dunedin Hospital to GPs, providing vouchers to
those who cannot afford it.
In response, Health Minister Tony Ryall said the ED target
had been central to reducing waiting times and improving
''Dunedin Hospital ED has improved significantly in recent
''Ten weeks out from the election, I expect the public will
see more shrill comments from Opposition MPs trying to get
their names in the paper.''
Also rejecting the suggestion, health board patient services
medical director Dick Bunton said the health board held
itself to the highest standards.
''Everything we do is for the good of patients and the
''This is a misinterpretation of the trial, which is focused
on improving patient care and access to health services.''
Dr Clark said the scheme was designed to ''skew figures to
meet Government targets''.
''Southern DHB patients who can afford to visit their doctor
before presenting at the emergency department are promised a
fast track through the ED process.
''Those who go straight to the ED because they can't afford
to visit their GP will now get sent off to their doctor with
a voucher for a free visit. Effectively they're paid to go
In the last quarterly targets published by the Government,
Southern met the target for 93% of patients. A more recent
update to a health board committee showing the May results
revealed waits had become longer, and only 87% were treated
within six hours.
The official target is 95% of patients treated or transferred
in six hours.