NSW hospitals continued to deliver high-quality care in the April to June quarter despite significant challenges due to the ongoing wave of the Omicron strain of COVID-19 and the peak of an early winter flu season.
NSW Health Deputy Secretary, Adjunct Professor Matthew Daly, said the latest Bureau of Health Information (BHI) Healthcare Quarterly report shows large numbers of complex presentations and admissions to hospitals and furloughed staff created significant challenges. These challenges were experienced by health systems throughout Australia and NSW was no exception.
Almost 14,000 people were admitted to NSW public hospitals with COVID-19, including 925 people who required intensive care, in the April to June quarter. More than 1,500 people were admitted to NSW public hospitals with influenza-like illnesses during the same period.
COVID-19 and flu also had a significant impact on healthcare workers, with thousands of NSW Health staff unavailable every day throughout the quarter, either through illness or isolation.
"I want to thank all our staff for their incredible efforts during this difficult period because the work they have done, and continue to do, to care for the people of NSW is extraordinary," Prof Daly said.
"We acknowledge that the challenges faced by the health system did have an impact on the timeliness of care provided during the quarter, but we continued to make every effort to ensure that those who need care urgently received it without delay."
Prof Daly said not only did public hospitals have a hugely busy quarter, but the complexity of emergency department attendances increased.
"Of the almost 800,000 attendances at NSW emergency departments during the quarter, about 111,000 were by patients in triage category two, those with an imminently life-threatening condition – the highest number of patients in this category in any quarter since BHI began reporting," Prof Daly said.
The report shows the majority of emergency department patients (62.8 per cent) started treatment on time and more than seven in 10 patients (72.5 per cent) were transferred from ambulance to ED staff within the 30-minute benchmark.
Prof Daly said a total of 53,712 elective surgeries were performed across the state from April to June and almost all urgent elective surgeries (98.2 per cent) were performed on time.
"The elective surgery wait list was reduced by more than 2,200 people in the quarter thanks to the incredible efforts of our staff and the support of our private hospital partners, but we acknowledge we still have a lot more work to do to address the significant impact the pandemic response has had on our waiting lists," Prof Daly said.
Prof Daly also noted that public hospitals also performed more than 24,000 emergency surgeries during the quarter, but these critical and generally most complex surgical procedures are not included in the BHI report, thereby greatly under-representing the work done in operating theatres throughout the state.
The NSW Government is investing a record $33 billion in health as part of the 2022-23 NSW Budget. A record 10,148 full-time equivalent staff will be recruited to hospitals and health services across NSW over four years, as part of a $4.5 billion investment. The Budget also includes $408 million over two years to fast-track elective surgeries and $899 million for the ongoing COVID-19 response.