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State of Emergency Department


Story by Soumya Bhamidipati

Wairarapa Hospital’s emergency department may have had fewer patients last year than the previous years, but those who did go presented with no less variety of conditions.

According to information obtained by the Times-Age under the Official Information Act, 16,668 people presented at the hospital’s emergency department in 2020. This was a decrease from 2019 when 17,729 people went to the ED, and 2018, which had 17,934 presentations.

Of those who presented at ED in 2020, 11,854 were treated and discharged, while 3624 were admitted to the hospital.

These figures excluded patients who did not wait to be seen.

“Patients presenting to ED with non-urgent, low-acuity medical conditions can often be seen faster by their GP or after hours service, and may choose to turn to these other care environments,” Wairarapa District Health Board’s OIA response read.

Fewer people were also admitted to the hospital from the ED than previous years: in 2019, 3851 patients were admitted, while both 2019 and 2020 showed a significant reduction on 2018’s 6069 admissions.

On average, patients who presented to the ED in 2020 waited for 3.1 hours. For those who were treated, the average wait time before discharge or transfer was 3.2 hours.

The most common health concerns which patients presented with were a limb injury [2509 patients], abdominal pain [1297], laceration [858], shortness of breath [825], and chest pain [795].

Of those who were treated, the most common diagnosis was no pathologic diagnosis [686 patients], and abdominal pain with the cause unknown [630]. These were followed by atypical chest pain [301], urinary tract infectious disease [254], and sprained ankles [245].

Eighty-five people went to the ED after a motor vehicle crash.

At least six patients presented with amputated fingers.

Forty-five had a wound inflicted by a dog bite, 35 patients were wounded by an insect bite, and seven by a cat bite. Four patients had wounds from unspecified bites, and two were diagnosed with wounds from spider bites. Two patients were treated for human bites.

Bee stings took five people to the ED, compared with three allergic reactions to wasp stings, and three insect stings.

One patient was treated for a venomous sting.

Foreign objects in places they shouldn’t be was a somewhat common complaint, with 201 diagnoses mentioning a foreign body — found from the eyes, ears and nose to the colon, feet and rectum, and multiple places in between.

One person was diagnosed with malaria and another with scarlet fever.

On the other end of the scale, one patient was diagnosed with pins and needles, and another person’s ring was too tight on their finger.

Last month the Times-Age reported Wairarapa Hospital was working on a “front door initiative” to support and protect the function of its ED.

According to the DHB’s August board paper, the initiative would include the reconfiguration of the front door and waiting areas, creating spaces for triage, assessment, and redirection.

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