24 Apr 2009

Hospital emergency waiting times too long - report

3:15 pm on 24 April 2009

Hospitals are still failing to meet government targets for waiting times in emergency departments.

Latest figures show less than a quarter of district health boards met target times for treating serious and potentially life-threatening cases.

Only five of 21 district health boards are meeting the mark for patients needing attention in ten minutes or less, while only four are meeting the target for those patients who should be examined within half an hour.

The statistics were recorded for activity during the last three months of 2008.

The quarterly report says any patient with an obvious life threatening condition is seen to immediately.

However injuries which are less immediate, but still with potential to kill, are not being dealt with in times set down by the Ministry of Health.

Medical Association chairman Peter Foley says hospitals should turn more patients away from emergency departments.

He says cutting down on the numbers of patients who attend emergency departments but would better be treated by GPs would be a practical step to reduce waiting times.

Ministry of Health chief clinical advisor Dr Sandy Dawson says improvement are already in place including a fast-track process for dealing with relatively minor injuries, and procedures to make sure people get MRI and CT scans quickly.

Dr Dawson says a new performance indicator to address overcrowding in emergency departments could be announced next week.