Overloaded city clinics turn away ambulances
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Ambulances are being turned away from city medical clinics, putting further pressure on Waikato Hospital’s strained emergency department.
And the lack of beds at the ED is so dire, people are being forced to stay in – and tie up – ambulances outside as they wait for a space to free up.
Patients have also been put into hospital corridors because of overcrowding.
Long waiting times and full medical clinics around Hamilton are seeing those practices bump patients off to the hospital’s ED – even when patients’ conditions are less than serious.
The Waikato DHB was briefed on the development on Wednesday – one senior health boss called it a ‘‘significant issue’’.
Waikato’s ED has been stretched to the limit this winter.
In July 10, the hospital’s ED treated a record 297 patients, while on May 23, the department was tipped into overload, prompting elective surgeries that weren’t cancer-related or emergencytype to be rescheduled.
DHB director of hospital services Brett Paradine said the city’s medical clinics had started turning away ambulance patients due to long waiting times.
Hamilton’s Anglesea Clinic had also informed the hospital it wouldn’t accept redirected patients from the ED when the clinic had a four-hour patient wait.
‘‘We know demand grows over time, but this has been a particularly difficult winter,’’ Paradine said.
‘‘St John is seeing record levels. They have had the highest levels of callouts here in the Waikato, with a 16 per cent increase last month compared to the same month the previous year.
‘‘The issue about people being redirected from primary care to the emergency department is a significant issue for the DHB.’’
Paradine said delivering preventative care through the primary care sector is the best way to reduce demand on the hospital’s ED.
Anecdotal evidence suggests people come to the ED because they struggle to access or afford primary healthcare. They also know they will receive good quality care at the hospital.
However, Paradine said most of those turning up to the department were in need of urgent care.
‘‘We know demand grows over time, but this has been a particularly difficult winter.’’
DHB director of hospital services Brett Paradine
‘‘The feedback I’ve had from the clinical director in the emergency department and a number of clinicians I’ve spoken to there [is that] most of the people who are coming up to the emergency department do actually need to be there.’’
In reply, Waikato DHB chairman Bob Simcock said he assumed primary care providers were required to deliver a 24-hour service.
‘‘At the moment it seems to be that when they defer back to us, they’re refusing that obligation,’’ Simcock said.
DHB director of strategy and funding Julie Wilson said medical clinics had experienced high levels of staff sickness, putting them under further pressure.
A primary community care workshop has been scheduled to look at making the sector sustainable, Wilson said.
Meanwhile, Paradine said initiatives to increase ED staffing levels had led to four extra senior doctors employed.
The emergency department has yet to reach its full nursing quota due to resignations. A further recruitment programme is needed to fill those vacancies.
Since last July, more than 20 nurses have resigned from the emergency department, many citing stress.
Waikato Hospital ED is also under pressure, with ambulances sometimes required to hold people outside until a space frees up inside.