Hospital slashes A&E wait times
Sat, 22 Sep 2012 6:18p.m.
By Susie Nordqvist
It's another Saturday night and as the parties and the bars across New Zealand warm up, so are the hospital accident and emergency departments that will be run off their feet later on.
But North Shore's A&E reckons it has found a way to save lives and slash waiting times. The secret is something called "point-of-care testing" – where medical tests are carried out at patients' bedsides rather than elsewhere in the hospital.
“North Shore Hospital before we moved into the new facilities was doing very poorly in terms of the six-hour target,” says Dr Willem Landman.
In fact, in 2009 the waiting times in their emergency department were the worst in the country.
Just 61 percent of patients were discharged or transferred within six hours. That figure is now 97 percent, and that's partly because of point-of-care testing.
“We do x-rays and immediately on the screen at the bedside we have a digital picture of that x-ray,” says Dr Landman. “Or we can do an ultrasound at the bedside and answer critical decisions that we need to know right away.”
University of Auckland Professor Tava Olsen used point-of-care testing to study the waiting times of 55,000 patients in California, but the results can be applied to New Zealand too.
“We found that the average wait across all patients decreased from six-and-a-half hours down to five hours,” says Professor Olsen. “The revisit rates went from 2.3 percent of patients who would return with the same complaint to the same ED down to 1.7 percent.”
And it saves lives.
“There was an Australian study that showed a 30 percent increase in mortality among patients that were admitted to emergency departments in busy periods,” says Professor Olsen.
But the equipment doesn't come cheap and that's a barrier for some of our smaller hospitals who don't have it, even if in the long-term the benefits far outweigh the up-front costs.
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25/09/2012 10:07:53 a.m.
I agree with Theena. There is a virtual freeze on all DHB positions, making a month by month assessment to see if there is money to cover staff leaving or off sick. The wait time is ridiculous and people who are genuinely unwell with a longer term illness are being sent home/discharged within a 6 hour target only for the DHB to say wow look at us, we are doing so well. Phooey! WDHB has overspent now there is no money for staffing. Good luck if you get sick and need hosptial care.
25/09/2012 4:30:47 a.m.
If emergency departments were used for what they were intended there would not be 5 hour waits. We get great health care and people who actually need to be seen in an emergency department get timely care and treatment. If you are waiting 5 hours you probably had a complaint that could have been attended to by your GP! This is were funding should be going, making private GP care cheaper so that people go to their GP out of habit rather than choosing the long wait in ED over an expensive trip to the GP especially after hours.
25/09/2012 12:51:38 a.m.
very, very short staff in ED. manager not replacing vacant or sick staff as have been overbudget. Staff have been stressed out due to poor staffing. Not very safe place to work, and very unsafe for patient.
24/09/2012 6:59:47 p.m.
23/09/2012 4:05:05 p.m.
The wait is now DOWN to five hours? Holey moley, that's still very high. We all know that nobody works harder than our nursing staff, so there clearly aren't enough of them. More funding and staff required.
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