Long ED waits caused by ward admissions

Nearly three-quarters of patients who waited longer than six hours in the Dunedin Hospital emergency department in October were admitted to wards, new figures show.

That month, 427 patients were not treated or transferred within the target time of six hours, 12% of presentations. Of those, 311 were admitted to various wards in the hospital.

This compares with a general admission rate from ED of about 28%.

The figures were included in papers before Southern District Health Board members at their meeting in Dunedin yesterday.

''Therefore our focus remains related to the general flow of patients through to inpatient beds exacerbated by a continuation of [a] 5% increase in presentations to ED from the previous year,'' patient services executive director Lexie O'Shea's report said.

Late yesterday afternoon, a spokesman said when contacted the difference in admission rates reflected that it took longer to admit patients to wards, than to treat and discharge them in ED. This was because of logistical factors like waiting for specialists from other wards to assess patients.

A letter from the Ministry of Health which in part criticised the board for lack of progress cutting ED waiting times attracted no comment from board members during the 30-minute public section of their meeting.

The November 30 letter presented feedback on the latest health target results from their respective national ''champions''.

ED target champion Prof Mike Ardagh said it was disappointing the board's performance decreased in the last quarter (86% compared with 90%).

''I am concerned that some significant pieces of work appear to be on hold while changes are made to your organisational structure,'' he said, referring to recent management restructuring.

He acknowledged the busy winter season had affected waiting times.

The letter also shed light on how far behind its elective surgery schedule the board actually is, given it has said IT problems are obscuring the results.

Elective surgery target champion Clare Perry said she understood the board was about 5% behind planned elective volumes, as of November 22.




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