30 Jan 2009

Moves to cut emergency wait times 'not enough'

3:31 pm on 30 January 2009

The New Zealand Medical Association says recommendations for improving emergency health care at hospitals do not go far enough.

The Government on Thursday released a list of recommendations on how hospitals can reduce waiting times in emergency departments to a maximum of six hours.

It is seeking feedback from the public and health sector on 14 recommendations made by the Ministry of Health.

Health Minister Tony Ryall says emergency departments are barometers for how well hospitals are working and lower waiting times also mean better services and procedures in wards and X-ray departments.

He says a recent survey found that in one district health board up to 20% of patients waited in the accident and emergency department for more than eight hours.

The recommendations include establishing health targets to introduce formal accountability, and plans to move patients out of corridors when emergency department are full to other parts of the hospital.

The ministry also recommends continuing analysis to identify pressure points within the hospital system.

However, the Medical Association says six hours is still too long for many patients to wait.

It says there should be more emphasis on diverting non-emergency cases away from emergency departments.

The association also says the triage system of assessing patients should be reviewed.