NSW public hospitals improved the timeliness of emergency care for the second quarter in a row as the health system continues to recover from the significant impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite ongoing high demand.
The Bureau of Health Information's latest Healthcare Quarterly report (October – December 2022) shows emergency department wait times improved during the final quarter of 2022, as the fourth wave of COVID-19 reached its peak.
NSW Health Deputy Secretary Adjunct Professor Matthew Daly said there were more than 790,000 attendances at NSW EDs throughout the final quarter of 2022, with a record number in the most critical categories.
"Despite the huge volume of patients, the proportion of all ED patients who started their treatment on time and the number of patients whose care was transferred from paramedics to ED staff within 30 minutes improved," Prof Daly said.
"For the second quarter in a row we are seeing some positive signs in our results, which is testament to our dedicated staff and their outstanding performance through another challenging quarter."
Recent reports from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the Report on Government Services confirmed NSW outperforms all other states when it comes to timeliness of care in EDs, despite the significant impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prof Daly said it was also of note that almost half of all presentations to our EDs in the October to December 2022 quarter were less serious cases, with more than 370,000 in the semi-urgent and non-urgent categories.
"We urge the community to please support our hardworking frontline staff by saving our emergency departments and ambulances for saving lives. Our emergency departments will always prioritise critically ill and seriously unwell patients first, which unfortunately can result in less urgent cases waiting longer," Prof Daly said.
NSW will deliver 25 Urgent Care Services over the next three years to help ease pressures on emergency departments and make it easier for patients, families and carers to access urgent care in the community by creating better links between the hospital and primary care systems.
Prof. Daly said the NSW Government has invested almost $1 billion to fast-track surgeries delayed due to COVID-19 pandemic response and, with the support of its private hospital partners, NSW Health is working hard to ensure everyone due for surgery receives their procedure as soon as possible.
"NSW Health performed more than 54,000 elective surgeries during the quarter and, in addition to this, public hospitals also performed over 25,000 emergency surgeries," Prof Daly said.
"As well as this high volume of emergency surgeries, almost all urgent elective procedures (99 per cent) continue to be performed on time, reflecting the priority placed on those most in need."
Prof Daly said the list of people scheduled to receive elective surgery changes constantly as people receive their surgeries and other people are added to the list.
"We remain focused on addressing the minority of people on the list whose surgeries are overdue, particularly those in the non-urgent category who were most impacted by the temporary suspensions during the pandemic response," Prof Daly said.
"Thanks to the remarkable efforts of our staff we brought the number of overdue surgeries down by 9 per cent from July to December 2022 and we continue to make every effort to bring that number right down."
The NSW Government is investing a record $33 billion in health as part of the 2022-23 NSW Budget, including almost $900 million for the ongoing COVID-19 response.
The NSW Government also announced the largest workforce boost in the nation's history in the 2022-23 Budget with a $4.5 billion investment over four years for 10,148 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff to hospitals and health services across NSW.