The latest statistics from the Bureau of Health show that waiting times for surgery and emergency departments at Wyong and Gosford hospitals are among the worst five in the state.
The report points to a 12.5 percent increase in presentations to Wyong emergency over the past three months and nurses there claim to be overworked and understaffed.
The Nurses and Midwives Association has launched a campaign at Wyong to boost the nurse-to-patient ratio and the four Central Coast Labor MPs are backing the fight for the nurses.
Swansea MP, Yasmin Catley, said in Parliament on Tuesday last week that the health system was broken, and the Central Coast and Hunter region hospitals were under-resourced but excessive wait times in emergency departments and on surgery lists was not the worst of it.
“The state of outpatient services within the region is even more dire,” she said.
“Wait times for some outpatient services are as long as three years.
“That is a disgrace,” Catley said.
“People are waiting far too long to have vital surgery or to even see a specialist to begin with.
“How can the Premier, in good conscience, tell the people of NSW that her government has a strong track record on health when some of our most vulnerable people are waiting three years to see a specialist?”
The NSW Government has labelled these reactions as “scaremongering”. In reply to Catley’s address to Parliament, Energy and Environment Minister, Matt Kean, said he would take her concerns to the Health Minister but “no amount of scaremongering will take away from the fact that this government has invested a record amount in health infrastructure and health services … ensuring hospitals are built, resourced, waiting times are driven down and families looked after by the hospital system”.
However, waiting times in emergency departments and waiting lists for surgery at Wyong and Gosford hospitals has soared according to latest information from the Bureau of Health.
The Bureau’s April-June 2019 quarterly report said Central Coast hospitals were high on the list with the highest percentage of patients waiting more than four hours.
Gosford was among the worst five in the state with 42.9 percent and Wyong close behind with 35.1 percent.
The Central Coast region is falling behind the rest of NSW when it comes to quality health services says Wyong MP and Shadow Minister for the Central Coast, David Harris.
“The health and hospital system across the state is under enormous pressure with the waiting list for surgery blowing out to over 84,000 patients (84,131),” he said.
“This latest figure breaks the record set last quarter, when the waiting list exceeded 80,000 patients for the first time.
“The record 84,131 patients were waiting for non-urgent procedures like cataract removal, knee and hip replacements and tonsillectomies.
“Of those, 10 percent were waiting longer than 359 days for their surgery.
“Gosford Hospital exceeded the state average with 10 percent of patients waiting just under a year for surgery (362 days).
“In April 2011, there were just 66,000 patients waiting for elective surgery in NSW.”
Both Gosford and Wyong hospitals recorded decreases in the percentage of emergency department patients receiving treatment within recommended timeframes across all triage categories compared to the same period in 2018, the report said.
“At Gosford Hospital, 44.6 percent of T3 urgent presentations were not seen in the clinically recommended timeframe.
“At Wyong Hospital, 33.5 percent of T2: emergency presentations were not seen in the recommended timeframe.”
Harris said hospitals in the state were at “breaking point”.
“It shouldn’t matter if you’re in Wyong or Waverley, everyone living in NSW deserves the peace of mind that comes with knowing that if you or one of your loved ones is sick or injured, you can go to your local emergency department and be seen to as soon as possible,” he said.
Central Coast Local Health District Chief Executive, Dr Andrew Montague, said figures in the report reflected the fact that the longest flu season in NSW since the 2009 pandemic had influenced the amount of patient presentations to emergency departments.
“Gosford and Wyong hospitals experienced a significant increase in seriously ill and injured patients presenting to emergency departments and I would like to commend our staff for their hard work and commitment to providing timely, high-quality and safe patient care during this time,” Montague said.
“Gosford saw 18,795 attendances, up by 2,219 patients or 13.4 percent, compared to the same quarter last year.
“Patients in T2 emergency triage category increased by 18.1 percent.
“There were 18,107 emergency department attendances at Wyong Hospital, up by 1,923 patients or 11.9 percent, compared to the same quarter last year.
“The most significant increases were seen in the more serious triage categories, with a 39.8 percent increase in cases that required lifesaving resuscitation and a 20 percent increase in the T2 emergency category.
“At both Wyong and Gosford hospitals, all urgent surgeries were completed within the recommended clinical timeframe and more than 98 percent of all elective surgeries at Wyong and 96 percent at Gosford hospital were performed on time.
“Additional bed capacity is made available during peak demand times.
“The District is also improving its community health care options to take the pressure off emergency departments, with a new mobile x-ray service, community clinics and events offering preventative health checks, increased nursing services in the community and support for people living with chronic conditions whose care can be provided as close to home as possible.”
Montague said the 2019-20 budget for Central Coast Local Health District was more than $873M – an increase of more than $32M on the 2018-19 budget.
“Between mid 2012 and mid 2019 the Central Coast Local Health District increased its workforce by 1,044 full time equivalent staff – an increase of 23.6 percent – including 324 more doctors, 453 more nurses and midwives, and 121 more allied health staff,” he said.
Interview, Sept 18
David Harris, Wyong MP
NSW Government Hansard
Private Members’ Statement, Sept 17
Yasmin Catley, Swansea MP
Media release, Sep 11
Shadow Minister for the Central Coast, David Harris, and Shadow Health Minister, Ryan Park
Media release, Sep 17
Dr Andrew Montague, Central Coast Local Health District Chief Executive
Bureau of Health April-June 2019 quarterly report
Journalists, Sue Murray and Terry Collins