Emergency Department Pressure and Signage

Media release 28 April 2017 | A sign at the front of Middlemore Hospital’s Emergency Department had been placed there by a staff member without senior authorisation and had been left there since a period of particularly high demand.

“The staff member was trying to do the right thing, but the wording on the sign was ill-judged and it has been removed. Signage is often useful to help patients understand our emergency department processes, but in this case it was inaccurate and not sufficiently patient focussed” said Dr Gloria Johnson, acting Chief Executive.

The sign referred to long delays of up to 8 hours for minor illnesses or injuries and also indicated that the hospital was full. Neither of these statements was accurate on Friday night.

Counties Manukau Health has continued to experience a high demand for health services as winter has continued.

“For the quarter just reported, our emergency department achieved a result of 92%, against a national average of 93% and a target of 95%, which was disappointing but not unexpected given the record levels of presentations we have had to our emergency department this winter,” said Dr Gloria Johnson.

The Health Target is that 95% of patients will be admitted, discharged, or transferred from an emergency department (ED) within six hours. The target indicates how efficiently our acute (urgent) patients are flowing through our public hospitals to get back home again.

This quarter’s emergency department result was impacted by the early onset of winter pressure. During June, for example, Middlemore Hospital’s emergency department received 10,336 presentations, a 9.9% increase over the same period the year prior.

“It is the case that exceptionally high levels of acute demand over recent months have resulted in the hospital frequently being well over capacity. When this occurs then it does become much more difficult to admit patients as quickly as usual from the emergency department.”

“We are actively engaged in planning for an expansion of capacity in order to ensure that we have an adequate number of beds to meet demand in the future.”

“We are not alone in experiencing this demand as we are aware that other DHBs, particularly those in Auckland, have been experiencing very strong demand for services,” said Dr Johnson.

“While our staff continue to work very hard through a very busy winter period, the number of people we are seeing has returned to levels more consistent with this time of year. This week our hospital had a manageable capacity and while Friday night was busy we met our targets as we did on Saturday night,” added Dr Johnson.

Middlemore Hospital is one of the busiest in Australasia and a busy winter day can see as many as 400 patients present for care.

“We do see some people come to our emergency department for minor illness and injuries. As we prioritise based on health risk, these people can experience long waits as we focus our care on those with life threatening illness and injuries,” said Dr Johnson.

For further information, please contact the Counties Manukau Health Media Line on (09) 250 9857.

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