The number of people walking out of NSW emergency departments without being treated has almost doubled in 12 months, with “chronic staffing shortfalls” blamed for the mammoth waiting times.
The latest data from the Bureau of Health Information on ‘walkouts’ – those who leave an ED before receiving treatment – paints a concerning picture across NSW, with 60,000 people heading for the exit early between July and September last year, up 87 per cent on the same period in 2021. Data reveals only 57 per cent of ED patients were treated in under four hours, the department’s target time.
The state’s newest public hospital in Maitland, which opened in January 2022, had the most ED walkouts with 2481 between July and September.
The Hunter New England Health District, which includes Maitland Hospital, had 11,622 walkouts. Campbelltown Hospital wasn’t far behind, with 2465 walkouts, a 160 per cent rise. There were also significant rises in walkouts at Fairfield Hospital (147 per cent), Northern Beaches Hospital (139 per cent), and Port Macquarie Base Hospital (191 per cent).
“These unacceptable waiting times are part of a statewide problem, caused by chronic staffing shortfalls,” said NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association general secretary Shaye Candish.
“Emergency departments are at a crisis point and we should not be expecting the health workforce to keep shouldering the burden.” Ms Candish said the association was calling for better nurse-to-patient ratios, including one nurse to every three treatment spaces in ED.
“The lack of minimum and enforceable nurse-to-patient ratios is what prompted four statewide strikes last year, and because the NSW Government has failed to act, ED nurses are quitting,” she said. A NSW Health spokeswoman said the state’s EDs were outperforming the rest of the country with 744,853 emergency admissions between July and September.