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Our 17,934 emergencies


A midweek investigation

ED work: ‘The reason someone is alive today’

Emily Ireland

Last year, Wairarapa’s emergency department staff saw it all, from overdoses and assault victims, to viral diseases and bone fractures.

All up, there were 17,934 presentations to the emergency department, with the most common provisional diagnoses relating to adnominal issues, followed by respiratory related, and then sprains and dislocations.

Of the presentations, only 6069 people were admitted to hospital.

Data obtained by the Midweek through the Official Information Act, revealed the reasons behind each of the almost 18,000 presentations to ED.

Further analysis showed at least 90 ED presentations were related to motor vehicle crashes, and 71 were related to alleged assaults, including at least two people who were treated for gunshot wounds.

There were 494 presentations relating to mental health, including issues like anxiety, suicidal ideation and attempts, and self-harm, with the most common age group to present for mental health-related issues being 20-39-year-olds.

The data also showed there were at least 44 people who were treated for dog bite injuries, a few people who tripped over a dog, injuring themselves, and at least seven people who were bitten by a cat.

One young person presented to ED after accidentally eating cat litter.

Last year, the busiest month in ED was January, with 1634 presentations, and the longest waiting time was also in January at 17 hours. At least one 17-hour waiting time was also recorded in August.

The waiting time begins when a person arrives at reception and ends when the person is discharged, transferred, or admitted to hospital.

Acute Services charge nurse manager Kathryn Wadsworth said long waiting times like this were out of context and did not reflect the goings-on at ED.

She said a patient coming in and being treated in ED might be more comfortable staying in the bed in the bay overnight, rather than going home in the middle of the night, resulting in a 17-hour waiting time.

The longest average waiting time was in October at 3 hours 12 minutes, and the shortest average waiting time was 2 hours 54 minutes in April, May, and August.

Kathryn said usually from eight to 12 clinical and administrative staff worked in Wairarapa Hospital ED – and one staff member has worked in ED for 31 years.

ED staff shared their experiences anonymously with the Midweek and said the biggest misconception about their job was that “they don’t care, or that people don’t matter”.

“We do [care], and they do [matter], and we always do the best we can in the circumstances,” they said.

Another misconception was that people thought working in ED was “like it is on American TV”.

“It’s really not that glamorous.

“It’s often dirty, occasionally abusive, and sometimes frightening, but it is also immensely satisfying to directly see a positive outcome for someone in need and know that you made that difference.

“It is a privilege to meet the community’s needs – the thanks and compliments are really inspiring . . . but sometimes the negative stories take over and it can be extremely disheartening.”

When asked what some of the staff’s proudest achievements were working in ED, one said, “being the reason someone is alive today”.

Top 10 presentations in 2018

1653 Abdominal related
1363 Respiratory related
1099 Sprains/dislocations
1002 Fracture/breaks
810 Open wound
626 Heart related
557 Non-cardiac chest pain
494 Mental health related
461 Urinary related
453 Bruises

Average waiting time: 3 hours

Longest waiting time: 17 hours



  1. I think they all do a wonderful job and get no praise for the work they do . they are under payed and receive peanuts for there hard work. give them a break and look after them

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