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Long waits at Wairarapa ED

 

Long waits can be expected at Wairarapa Hospital’s emergency department [ED] as more than one in four patients were not seen within six hours earlier this week.

Kieran McCann, the interim lead of hospital and health services, said in the 24 hour period to midnight on Tuesday, only 73 per cent of all attendances were treated within six hours of presenting at the ED.

The current target wait time at the ED is 95 per cent of those presenting seen within six hours.

A Masterton resident who wanted to remain anonymous waited with a family member at the ED for six and a half hours last week before giving up and going home.

The person said it was standing room only in the waiting area outside the ED, which was full of sick and injured people, including crying children with suspected fractures and a man with a back injury.

“It was a shambles,” they said.

“The atmosphere in the waiting room was one of hopelessness. I have lost my faith in the ED’s ability to provide urgent and timely medical care.”

Staffing shortages and the numbers of inpatients are some of the factors contributing to pressure on the hospital system.

The ED is not fully staffed at the moment, with a number of senior vacancies. McCann confirmed that, as of March 20, the ED was understaffed by more than three full-time equivalent people.

Vacancies include almost two full-time ED Consultants and about the same number of acute Registered Nurses. While recruitment is underway, it is expected to take time to fill the roles.

“We are actively recruiting for these positions,” McCann said.

“However, the recruitment can take up to 12 months if the doctor is coming from overseas because of registration and other processes.”

While the hospital was not at full capacity on Tuesday evening, a high proportion of its beds were occupied, with little slack in the system.

At midnight that day, 61 beds were occupied, with 11 free.

Amber Cox is a New Zealand Nurses Organisation [NZNO] delegate at Wairarapa Hospital.

“There is a feeling of exhaustion and being overworked,” she said of the staff at the hospital. 

“There are always gaps in the rosters, which are picked up by staff working more than their contracted hours. The shortages are caused because there aren’t enough nurses to fill those gaps. The problem is there is no long-term solution to this problem.”

McCann acknowledged the wait times and the impact of these on patients and families.

“We know wait times have been under pressure,” he said.

“Long ED wait times are a consequence of a range of factors that vary across New Zealand. There are no quick fixes to these issues, but Te Whatu Ora is already working closely with health agency partners to address waiting times for emergency care.

“Te Whatu Ora is putting in place a wide range of initiatives to address immediate pressures, as well as working on longer-term ways to ensure a sustainable health workforce.”

McCann appealed to the Wairarapa public to help reduce pressure on the ED by using it for emergency care only.

For minor ailments, people should contact their GP, Healthline, or the after hours service based at Masterton Medical Centre at 4 Colombo Rd on weekends and public holidays. People do not have to be a patient of Masterton Medical Centre to use the service.

A spokesperson for Masterton Medical said the centre also has an Urgent Care Clinic [UCC] to service its own enrolled patients.

“It is serviced by specialist urgent care clinicians, operates during our opening hours, and sees patients presenting with acute – not chronic – symptoms on an urgent basis,” they said.

“It is not intended for routine or ongoing issues.”

Patients at UCC are prioritised according to the severity of their symptoms.

“Appointment times are not assigned, but if a patient calls ahead, they can be provided with a possible consultation window having regard to the abovementioned patient prioritisation.”

 

 

  Vacancies include almost two full-time ED Consultants and about the same number of acute Registered Nurses. While recruitment is underway, it is expected to take time to fill the roles.

“We are actively recruiting for these positions,” McCann said.

“However, the recruitment can take up to 12 months if the doctor is coming from overseas because of registration and other processes.”

While the hospital was not at full capacity on Tuesday evening, a high proportion of its beds were occupied, with little slack in the system.

At midnight that day, 61 beds were occupied, with 11 free.

Amber Cox is a New Zealand Nurses Organisation [NZNO] delegate at Wairarapa Hospital.

“There is a feeling of exhaustion and being overworked,” she said of the staff at the hospital.

“There are always gaps in the rosters, which are picked up by staff working more than their contracted hours. The shortages are caused because there aren’t enough nurses to fill those gaps. The problem is there is no long-term solution to this problem.”

McCann acknowledged the wait times and the impact of these on patients and families.

“We know wait times have been under pressure,” he said.

“Long ED wait times are a consequence of a range of factors that vary across New Zealand. There are no quick fixes to these issues, but Te Whatu Ora is already working closely with health agency partners to address waiting times for emergency care.

“Te Whatu Ora is putting in place a wide range of initiatives to address immediate pressures, as well as working on longer-term ways to ensure a sustainable health workforce.”

McCann appealed to the Wairarapa public to help reduce pressure on the ED by using it for emergency care only.

For minor ailments, people should contact their GP, Healthline, or the after hours service based at Masterton Medical Centre at 4 Colombo Rd on weekends and public holidays. People do not have to be a patient of Masterton Medical Centre to use the service. A spokesperson for Masterton Medical said the centre also had an Urgent Care Clinic [UCC] to service its own enrolled patients.

“It is serviced by specialist urgent care clinicians, operates during our opening hours, and sees patients presenting with acute – not chronic – symptoms on an urgent basis,” they said.

“It is not intended for routine or ongoing issues.”

Patients at UCC are prioritised according to the severity of their symptoms.

“Appointment times are not assigned, but if a patient calls ahead, they can be provided with a possible consultation window having regard to the above mentioned patient prioritisation.”

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