ED patients waiting too long at St George and Sutherland hospitals

Waiting times: The emergency department at St George Hospital. Picture: John Veage

Waiting times: The emergency department at St George Hospital. Picture: John Veage

Patients are spending too much time twiddling their thumbs in the St George Hospital and Sutherland Hospital emergency departments – compared to other hospitals across NSW.

The Bureau of Health Information releases statistics each quarter for public hospitals across NSW.

The latest report, January to March 2017, was released last month and shows St George and Sutherland hospitals have some catching up to do when it comes to ED waiting times. 

Both hospitals are behind the state average when it comes to patients waiting to start treatment in the ED, as well as time spent in the ED.

However, both hospitals are completing huge redevelopments this year, which the hospitals expect will improve waiting times.

On average, patients spent 2 hours 44 minutes in the emergency department across all public hospitals in NSW (for January to March of this year). 

In comparison, St George Hospital patients spent 3h 22m in the ED, on average, while Sutherland Hospital patients averaged 3h 19m.

Both hospitals were also slightly behind the state average when it came to the amount of time patients had to wait to start their treatment in the ED.

A South Eastern Sydney Local Health District spokesperson said new facilities at both hospitals, which were due to be completed this year, would reduce the time patients spent in the ED.

“The population of the St George district and the Sutherland Shire continues to grow and additional demand has been placed on St George and Sutherland hospitals, with an increase of 1.7 per cent in presentations at St George Hospital compared to the same period last year,” the spokesperson said.

“The $277 million redevelopment at St George Hospital will deliver a new Acute Services Building which will significantly increase capacity. The new facility is scheduled for handover from the builders in late 2017.

New facility: The new Acute Services Building (pictured) at St George Hospital is nearing completion. Picture: John Veage

New facility: The new Acute Services Building (pictured) at St George Hospital is nearing completion. Picture: John Veage

“The $62 million redevelopment at Sutherland Hospital will provide a new and expanded emergency department including a purpose-built children’s emergency unit and a new emergency short stay unit.

“The new facility is scheduled for handover from the builders in late 2017.”

The spokesperson said the percentage of patients leaving the ED in less than four hours had improved significantly from 2010 to 2017, for both hospitals.

In February, an additional nursing position was recruited to assist with managing the flow of patients within the Sutherland Hospital emergency department.

“St George Hospital has also introduced an additional specialist to co-ordinate patient flow within the emergency department and additional specialists with qualifications in emergency paediatrics are currently being recruited.”

The Bureau of Health Information is yet to release its next report for April to June 2017.

Waiting times in emergency departments (January to March 2017):

Average time spent in ED:

NSW hospitals: 2h 44m (of 677,602 patients)

St George Hospital: 3h 22m (of 19,828 patients)

Sutherland Hospital: 3h 19m (of 12,689 patients)

Percentage of patients whose treatment started on time: 

NSW hospitals: 75.2 per cent (of 677,602 patients)

St George Hospital: 72.1 per cent (of 19,828 patients)

Sutherland Hospital: 65.1 per cent (of 12,689 patients)

Percentage of patients who spent four hours or less in ED:

NSW hospitals: 73.2 per cent (of 677,602 patients)

St George Hospital: 66.4 per cent (of 19,828 patients)

Sutherland Hospital: 68.8 per cent (of 12,689 patients)

Percentage of patients who spent four hours or less in ED (of those who were discharged following treatment):

NSW hospitals: 86 per cent

St George Hospital: 82.5 per cent

Sutherland Hospital: 79.2 per cent

*Averages are median averages.

**The majority of patients who visit the ED are treated and discharged. Patients who require admission to hospital from the ED usually have more complex health needs than those who are treated in the ED and discharged. Patients whose ED visit ends in admission to hospital therefore often spend longer periods in the ED.

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