Taskforce established to tackle emergency department wait times

THE State Government will establish a new taskforce to tackle emergency department (ED) wait times.

The ED Taskforce will comprise health workers and NSW Health officials, from across the state’s various local health districts and specialty networks, including from regional communities.

It will be tasked with identifying and implementing efficiencies, including initiatives to reduce unnecessary presentations, address bed block and improve patient flow, safely discharge patients more quickly, improve the experience of patients and staff in the ED, and move patients to parts of the system with more capacity where clinically appropriate.

Minister for Health Ryan Park has instructed NSW Health to draft terms of reference, appoint membership of the taskforce and set a first meeting date.

The announcement comes after the release of two Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reports and the latest Bureau of Health Information (BHI) quarterly results.

The two AIHW reports show that over 2022-23, NSW reported the highest number of ED presentations of any state or territory in Australia (three million).

The latest BHI data for the September quarter shows a record number of triage 2 category (emergency) presentations (118,772), and a 61 percent reduction in the number of overdue surgeries compared to September 2022.

A significant factor in the record demand on hospitals is the proportion of cases that could be treated in primary or aged care settings.

Almost half of all presentations to EDs were either category 4 (e.g. sprained ankle, earache) or category 5 (e.g. small cuts or abrasions).

A further BHI report on patient experiences in small rural hospitals shows that 45 percent of patients felt they could have been treated by a GP or other health professional.

This will remain a focus of the ED Taskforce.

“This Emergency Department Taskforce is the latest initiative in our suite of measures to improve wait times and access to care, including supporting and boosting our workforce; and embracing innovating initiatives to divert pressure from our hospitals,” Minister for Health Ryan Park said.

“Patients just want to receive the care they need and deserve in a timely manner.

“Having people and their loved ones waiting around in our hospitals for lengthy periods of time is neither good for them, nor our staff, nor other patients.

“I’ve made it a ministerial priority of mine that where we can safely improve access to care and treatment – including timeliness – we will do it.

“I’m proud of our healthcare workers across NSW who have faced serious challenges over the past couple of years but continue to show professionalism amidst record presentations and demand on our health system.”

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