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ED staffing hit hard

Wairarapa Hospital during last year’s lockdown. PHOTO/FILE

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As omicron’s presence increases, Wairarapa Hospital’s staff shortages are getting worse, resulting in longer emergency department wait times.

Wairarapa DHB chief executive Dale Oliff said staffing was increasingly challenging, placing “a lot of pressure” on services.

“Whilst we have not needed to restrict services significantly, we remain aware that disruption is likely to occur.

“We are working hard to minimise the impact of this on our community and those needing to access care in our hospital and would like to thank patients and the public for their understanding of the unprecedented situation we face.”

Wairarapa Hospital Entrance with covid restrictions.

The DHB said staff shortages were caused by staff needing to self-isolate, illness, and existing vacancies. The shortages had put further strain on the emergency department.

The DHB said the hospital’s emergency department was experiencing longer wait times than usual.

“Like everyone, we will need to support and understand the need for staff to self-isolate as they follow covid-19 guidelines and stay home.”

While processes were in place to reduce strain from staff isolation and illness, the problem would “inevitably grow” as covid-19 transmission became more widespread.

“We know we have had longer waiting times in our ED than we are aiming for and are aware that this has the potential to increase.”

Oliff said the hospital was at amber in its covid-19 response plan.

She said the main impact so far was tighter screening and testing processes for admissions and higher levels of screening and restrictions for visitors.

The DHB said the staff shortages had meant non-urgent patients were experiencing long wait times to be seen.

It said non-urgent patients should see their general practitioner or visit an after-hours rather than going to the emergency department.

“If patients decide they do want to be treated by emergency department staff, the DHB is asking they be respectful of staff and tolerant of the waiting times.”

The DHB said the after-hours at Masterton Medical was open to all Wairarapa residents.

The service operated on weekends and public holidays from 9am to 5pm.

The DHB said its emergency department classed patients into categories: life-threatening, emergency, urgent, semi-urgent, and non-urgent.

Patients arriving with life-threatening issues, such as cardiac arrest, would be treated immediately.

People classed as “emergency” may present to the emergency department with chest pain or severe shortness of breath and were generally seen within 10 minutes.

Urgent patients may arrive with bad injuries or severe abdominal pain and were likely to be seen within half an hour.

People presenting to the emergency department with issues like broken limbs were often seen within an hour. These patients would be considered “semi-urgent”.

The emergency department aimed to see non-urgent patients, such as those with strains and sprains, within two hours.

The DHB said this process allowed the sickest and most urgent patients to be seen first.

Patients were treated in order of urgency rather than arrival times so that those with more severe symptoms or injuries were treated before those with less severe conditions.

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