People in urgent need of medical treatment are in relatively good hands on the Far South Coast.
Much of this week's news has revolved around failings and struggles of regional health services - including at our own South East Regional Hospital.
However, quarterly figures released by the Bureau of Health Information (BHI) reveal improved wait times across several categories at SERH, including for the most severe triage categories.
In the three months April to June 2019, SERH had a total of 4718 emergency presentations, an increase of 17.2 per cent over the same period last year.
Of those, 408 were categorised as "Triage 2: Emergency" patients, and 1508 as "Triage 3: Urgent".
Clinical recommendations state T2 patients should be seen within 10 minutes of presenting to an ED. At SERH, the median time to treatment reported by BHI was seven minutes, an improvement of two minutes from the previous year and two minutes better than other hospitals in the same category.
BHI reported that 76.4 per cent of T2 patients started treatment "on time", an improvement of 17.2 percent on last year's result.
In the T3 Urgent category, the median time to treatment was 17 minutes, again an improvement on last year, and better than the 20 minute median time of other hospitals in the same category. Clinical recommendations are that treatment be started inside 30 minutes - 75.5 per cent of patients are reported to have had treatment start on time at SERH, up 5.4 per cent on last year.
However, in the semi- and non-urgent presentations to the ED, median wait times were up on the same period last year - although that could be explained by the 25.6 per cent increase in hospital presentations in those two triage categories.
The worst-performing category at SERH was in the non-urgent group, where the median time to treatment was 35 minutes, 11 minutes longer than the state average.
Overall, BHI reported that 77.1 per cent of all patients admitted to the emergency department were seen on time, with the median time to leave the ED being 2h28min, similar to last year and only four minutes better than the peer group average.
Across the state, there were more than 754,000 presentations to state hospital emergency departments, an increase of 8.2 per cent compared with the same quarter in 2018.
The timeliness of care provided in EDs was down across key measures at state level.
The report shows, compared with the same quarter last year:
- About seven in 10 ED (71.8%) patients were treated within clinically recommended timeframes, down 4.8 percentage points.
- Seven in 10 patients (70.6%) spent four hours or less in the ED, down 3.4 percentage points.
- Almost nine in 10 patients (87.6%) who arrived by ambulance had their care transferred to ED staff within 30 minutes, down 4.0 percentage points.
"Emergency departments were once again busier than they were in the same quarter a year ago, with more presentations overall and more patients arriving by ambulance," BHI chief executive Dr Diane Watson said.
"A typical patient in NSW will have waited longer for their treatment to start and spent more time overall in the emergency department. However, there is considerable variation in performance when you look at the results for individual hospitals," Dr Watson said.
The report shows that the April to June 2019 quarter was also a busy one for NSW Ambulance, with almost 310,000 responses - up 9.7 per cent compared with the same quarter last year.
"Despite a 12 per cent increase in the number of ambulance responses to life-threatening cases, the median response time remained stable at 7.5 minutes, which is a very positive result. However, response times did slip slightly for less urgent cases," Dr Watson said.
The Healthcare Quarterly report and associated information products, including local hospital and ambulance information, are available at bhi.nsw.gov.au