Long waits in Auckland's emergency wards
Wed, 01 Aug 2012 6:18p.m.
By Jane Luscombe
Sick or injured people in Auckland are being warned they face long waits because the city's emergency departments are under siege.
They're treating more people than ever before and many of them don't belong there.
No one likes being kept waiting, but delays are likely to get worse for emergency department patients in Auckland if the current trend continues.
“We're finding the numbers for winter are way above and beyond last year even - we're constantly getting over 300 patients a day now,” says emergency medicine specialist Dr Brett Gerard.
That's a lot for nine doctors at Middlemore to cope with and they haven't peaked yet: traditionally, the busiest time is the middle of August.
One of the problems for the hospital is that people put off seeing their GP until it's too late, by which time they need emergency treatment.
“We're certainly emphasising to patients to get to those services early, rather than sitting at home and getting more sick,” say Dr Gerard.
At Waitakere Hospital it's a different problem.
Four out of 10 of the most commonly seen conditions in the emergency department don't belong there: vomiting, diarrhoea, coughs and fevers should be treated by GPs first, not hospital doctors.
“Consequently, we are less able to treat the more severely unwell patients and those that require true emergency care,” says head of emergency medicine Dr Willem Landman.
They've seen the number of ED patients rise 45 percent since 2010.
“It's an enormous increase. It's very clearly unsustainable and it's a very expensive place for patients to be seen for minor ailments,” says Dr Landman.
Auckland's three district health boards have clubbed together to pay for a network of 11, low-cost, after-hours clinics, in the hope of keeping non-urgent cases out of hospital emergency departments.
Waitemata DHB is also carrying out a study to see why so many of them continue to use hospitals for minor problems.
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11/08/2012 9:43:21 a.m.
The problem is that people are going to the hospital when they should be seeing their doctor, or an A & E clinic instead.Money is a good excuse, but many people will always go to the hospital if they can do so for free, whether they can afford to pay or not.The solution is obvious - don't accept patients who are self-presented, and do not have serious injuries or health problems. Either send them to their doctors, or make them pay.
2/08/2012 5:32:04 a.m.
All EDs are in the same boat. most of these people simply cannot afford to get to a doctor and before long its escalated. Its well known that putting the money into cheaper or free dr visits (ambulance at the top of the cliff), saves money, time and lives as opposed to ambulance at the bottom. Wish our Govt would wake up.
2/08/2012 1:28:13 a.m.
Kevin Middleton wrote:
That's what you get when you vote idiots into power....change the govt.
1/08/2012 8:59:24 p.m.
Only people with genuine serious life threatening emergencies should be treated, and the hospital should add an A&E part where people have to pay for their services for non emergencies and direct those with less serious problems to the payment area and if they need hospitalisation then they get referred directly across.
1/08/2012 8:40:56 p.m.
Lesley Crimmins wrote:
Now why would the DHB need to waste money doind a study to see why people are using the ED for minor problems, ummmm heres a clue, they cannot afford to go to the doctors, when for some paying to see the doctors comes at a cost of not putting much food into the cupboard that week.
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