Transparency needed over ED wait times

Lessons need to be learned from any contribution that long waiting times played in the tragic death of a patient at Middlemore Hospital this week, National Party Health Spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

Counties Manukau District Health Board is urgently investigating the case of a woman who reportedly left the emergency department after being told it would be hours before she could be seen, only for her to be admitted to intensive care hours later, where she died.

Dr Reti says that ED wait times are an important snapshot of how a health system is performing and used to be reported regularly.

“One of Labour’s first moves when it came into office was to scrap National’s public health targets, which included shorter wait times in hospitals’ emergency departments. Since then, wait times have gotten worse, as has every outcome measure that National targeted, including faster cancer treatment.

“Labour think they can just throw money at the health system rather than focus on results. The stressed health system needs real doctors, not spin doctors. ED waiting time targets need to be reinstated immediately, and made readily available.

“The Government is putting $468 million into health reform funding. The public and the health workforce need to know that money is going towards what matters, not layers of bureaucracy which may obfuscate the true state of our health system.”

Other EDs are also struggling with recent data from Palmerston North Hospital’s ED showing more than a third of patients wait more than six hours to be seen and the average wait time is 8 hours and the longest 48 hours.

“New Zealand’s overworked health workforce is being let down by a Government that spends excessive amounts of public money yet achieves nothing.”

Read Dr Shane Reti's OIA Request to the Midcentral DHB here
Read the ED wait times at June 2021 here 

Read Dr Shane Reti's Written Questions to the Minister below: 

WPQ 14016 (2022)Further to 12789(2022) why is it nearly a year since emergency department wait times data was last reported publicly to June 2021 and when will be the next reporting be?

A: The performance measure on the proportion of patients admitted, discharged, or transferred from an Emergency Department (ED) within six hours’ reported on the Ministry website was part of the previous Health Target reporting. The previous Health Targets were retired in June 2021 and public reporting of results was discontinued as part of the introduction of the Health System Indicators framework. The Ministry of Health are currently considering data reporting in the new health system.

WPQ 9334 (2022). Are emergency department waiting times longer than 6 hours assessed and if so what are the figures for each DHB annually for the past 5 years?

A: I am advised that ‘the proportion of patients admitted, discharged, or transferred from an Emergency Department (ED) within six hours’ is monitored through performance measure Shorter Stays in ED within the Ministry of Heath accountability framework. Results for this measure have been reported on the Ministry website at the attached link: