WAITING FOR TREATMENT: Ambulances line up at Lismore Base Hospital due to an inadequate emergency department.
WAITING FOR TREATMENT: Ambulances line up at Lismore Base Hospital due to an inadequate emergency department.

Emergency department critical

THE failure to meet crucial benchmark treatment times at Lismore Base Hospital was due to an inadequate emergency department and underlined the need for an urgent upgrade, North Coast Area Health Service chief executive Chris Crawford said yesterday.

While the quarterly report by the Bureau of Health Information found Lismore Base was performing well in reducing waiting lists for surgery, it said the emergency department was struggling to treat patients within recommended times.

“Lismore hasn't had an upgrade to its emergency department for a long time. It's fair to say it is a quite a small emergency department for a hospital its size,” Mr Crawford said.

“Clearly, if you have a bigger emergency department and a functional one, that's going to help.”

All other emergency departments at large hospitals within the North Coast Area Health Service, such as Port Macquarie, have recently had major upgrades.

The Hospital Quarterly Performance report found that in potentially life-threatening and serious cases, medical staff at Lismore Base were failing to treat people within recommended times.

And as highlighted in The Northern Star's page one story last Monday, only 75 per cent ofpatients arriving by ambulance at Lismore Base were transferred from a stretcher to the care of hospital staff within 30 minutes. The benchmark is 90pc.

“At 75 per cent, it's well below the target. It's related to the functionality of the emergency department,” Mr Crawford said.

“Stage three (of Lismore Base Hospital) would give us a larger emergency department and, I think, a more functional one.”

Of those patients arriving by ambulance and then needing to be admitted, only 65pc were found a bed within eight hours, compared with a benchmark of 80pc.

“It's a mixed report,” Mr Crawford said. “On surgery, Lismore is doing well, but on emergency it's patchy.”

“(Emergency) staff are doing well in meeting the benchmarks for Triage 1 and 2, which are the most life threatening, but we've got quite a bit of work to do in Triage 3 and 4.”

“We are conscious of that and we are doing better than last year's performance, but access is challenging for Lismore because it's such a small (emergency)department.”

Mr Crawford said a State and Federal government-funded program over the past two years had significantly reduced surgery waiting lists.

“We have been pumping extra money into it and the surgeons and their teams have been working hard doing extra work,” he said.

“At the end of June, there was not one patient on the North Coast waiting longer than the benchmark.”



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