Northern NSW a rural health leader amid near record activity
The longest flu season in NSW since the 2009 pandemic was a significant contributor to record numbers of emergency department (ED) presentations across the state, reflected in the latest Bureau of Health Information report.
Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSWLHD) experienced its second busiest quarter on record from July to September 2019, with 54,559 emergency department (ED) presentations – an increase of 3,333 patients, or 6.5 per cent, on the same period last year.The District also recorded a 24.6 per cent rise in triage category 1 (resuscitation) presentations, the most urgent category for patients arriving at the ED.
There were 8,433 ambulance arrivals, 634 more than the same quarter in 2018.
Despite the large increase in emergency presentations, 78.3 per cent of patients were seen, treated, and left the ED within four hours, which was significantly better than the state average of 68.1 per cent.
NNSWLHD Chief Executive Wayne Jones said increases in demand were being experienced right across the District, with every hospital recording a jump in activity.
“This is not a case of huge outliers pushing averages up, but big increases across the board,” Mr Jones said.
“Every single one of our hospitals had increases in emergency presentations and the number of ambulances arriving.”
Lismore and Grafton base hospitals had their busiest quarter on record, with 10,189 and 6,893 ED presentations respectively. Six out of the eight sites in the district recorded increases of more than five per cent for ED presentations on the same quarter last year.
Mr Jones praised the commitment of staff to delivering excellent care throughout the increased activity.
“Even with more people coming through our doors, we’re still among the top performing local health districts. Our staff should be very proud of their efforts.”
In the July to September quarter 2019, 3.3 per cent, or 128 more elective surgeries were performed compared to the same quarter last year. Despite this increase, 99.9 per cent of urgent elective surgeries were performed on time.
“Despite the increase in emergency department presentations which places additional demand on our resources, we were still able to perform more elective surgery at some of our hospitals,” Mr Jones said.
“Mid this year, we opened an additional operating theatre at The Tweed Hospital to meet demand, and that has allowed us to perform an extra 158 surgeries at that site.
“The 1,011 elective procedures performed at Tweed Hospital this quarter is their highest number on record.”
The 2019-20 budget for Northern NSW Local Health District is over $875 million, an increase of over $37 million on the 2018-19 budget.
Between mid 2012 and mid 2019 the Northern NSW Local Health District increased its workforce by an additional 843 full time equivalent staff – an increase of 22.4 per cent including 115 more doctors, 280 more nurses and midwives, and 53 more allied health staff.
SITE PERFORMANCE July-September 2019
The Tweed Hospital saw 13,648 ED presentations and 2,399 arrivals by ambulance – increases of 11.4 per cent and 3.9 per cent respectively on the same period last year.
There were significant increases in the most urgent presentations, with 11.4 per cent, 16 per cent, and 10.7 per cent more patients triaged as requiring resuscitation (T1), emergency (T2), or urgent (T3) care respectively.
Despite increasing demand, the median time to leave the ED and the percentage of patients leaving the ED within four hours has remained stable.
The hospital recorded the highest quarterly figure for elective surgeries in the July to September quarter. There was an 18.5 per cent increase in elective surgeries performed, to 1,011, compared to the same quarter last year. The Tweed Hospital improved its elective surgery performance, with 100 per cent of all urgent elective surgeries performed on time.
Murwillumbah District Hospital had a 5.2 per cent increase in ED presentations compared to the same quarter in 2018. This reflects 234 more presentations, taking the total to 4,719 presentations.
Although the number of urgent elective surgeries increased by more than 36 per cent compared to the same quarter in 2018, 100 per cent of procedures were completed on time.
Maclean District Hospital saw 3,540 ED presentations, an increase of 17.7 per cent on the same quarter in 2018, and a 15.5 per cent increase in ambulance arrivals, up to 521.
Maclean District Hospital continues to perform well in elective surgery performance, with 100 per cent of elective surgeries performed on time.
Lismore Base Hospital had their busiest quarter on record, with an increase of 6.5 per cent on the same quarter last year to 10,189 emergency department presentations.
1,379 elective surgery procedures were performed, with 100 per cent of urgent procedures and 93.6 per cent of semi-urgent procedures performed on time.
Grafton Base Hospital had 6,893 emergency department presentations, its busiest quarter on record, and an increase of 3.6 per cent on the same quarter last year.
There were 571 elective surgery procedures performed in the July to September quarter, with 100 per cent of urgent and semi-urgent procedures performed on time.
Casino District and Memorial Hospital had 3,761 emergency department presentations in July to September 2019, an increase of 24.6 per cent.
Elective surgery procedures increased by 15.7 per cent compared to the same quarter last year, to 226, and 98.7 per cent of all elective procedures were performed on time.
Byron Central Hospital saw increased activity across the board, with 5,103 ED presentations (up 7.4 per cent), including 557 arrivals by ambulance (up 7.9 per cent). Despite increased activity, the percentage of patients starting treatment on time improved by 4.9 per cent.
Ballina District Hospital had 4,482 emergency department presentations, an increase of 7.6 per cent from the same quarter in 2018.
100 per cent of urgent surgeries and 97.7 per cent of semi-urgent surgeries were performed on time, an excellent result and an improvement on last year.