NSW Hospitals showing signs of recovery despite record ambulance callouts and ED presentations
NSW public hospitals remain under sustained pressure, with a record number of ambulance responses and critically ill patients presenting to emergency departments - according to the latest Bureau of Health Information (BHI) Healthcare Quarterly report (January – March 2023) released today.
Despite an increase in the number of triage category 2 patients presenting to emergency departments, wait times in NSW public hospitals were down for the third consecutive quarter.
Throughout the first quarter of 2023, there were 770,089 attendances to NSW public emergency departments.
Of these, 113,637 were patients with an imminently life-threatening condition (triage category 2) – the highest number of patients recorded in this category since BHI began reporting.
Despite the increase in more complex presentations, the majority of patients (67.4%) started their treatment on time, while almost 8 in 10 patients (77.7%) were transferred from ambulance to ED staff within the 30-minute benchmark time.
NSW Health Minister Ryan Park said the results show the state’s health system is still facing major challenges.
- 67.4% of all patients and 54.9% of category 2 patients started their treatment on time.
- There was a record 347,720 ambulance responses, the highest of any quarter since 2010.
- There were 10,868 life-threatening cases (P1A responses) for NSW Ambulance which was slightly down on the previous quarter but still up 70.3% on pre-pandemic levels.
“There are signs the performance of the NSW health system is starting to recover from the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Minister Park said.
“That’s a testament to the hard work and dedication of each and every one of our essential healthcare workers.
“But the health system is facing unprecedented demand and has suffered from a lack of investment in its frontline work force.
“The NSW Government is in the process of rolling out a broad suite of initiatives to improve patient access to the most appropriate care, and ease pressure on the state’s busy emergency departments.”
This includes the establishment of 25 Urgent Care Services across the state – with services already online in Western Sydney Local Health District and across the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network that are helping to reduce the number of unnecessary ED presentations among children and aged care residents.
The NSW Government is also addressing the issue of understaffing in NSW public hospitals with its commitment to introduce Safe Staffing levels and the provision of study subsidies for healthcare graduates.
The Healthcare Quarterly report also showed the volume of planned surgery performed in NSW public hospitals rose to the second highest of any quarter in almost two years, with 54,820 planned surgeries performed in the first quarter of 2023.
There were 96,857 patients on the waiting list at the end of March, down 2.5% percent from the previous quarter.
Minister Park said the NSW Government was committed to reducing the number of people waiting longer than clinically recommended for their surgery.
“The NSW Labor Government has a plan to reduce the elective surgery wait list and focus on reducing the number of people who are overdue for their surgery,” Mr Park said.
“The NSW Government has formed the Surgical Care Governance Taskforce to help bring down wait times for those needing important planned surgery and ensure they get the care they need in a timely fashion.”
The NSW Surgical Care Governance Taskforce will examine a range of best-practice models, including increasing day only surgery, boosting virtual care and remote monitoring of patients, enhancing systems of referrals and assessment of patients by multidisciplinary teams, and by maximising the effi