The wait time for surgeries has increased in the Bathurst, Orange and Dubbo public hospitals ostensibly due to an increased number of people seeking treatment in the Western NSW Local Health District.
The latest data from the Bureau of Health Information showed that the median time for an urgent surgery, semi-urgent and non-urgent surgery in the WNSWLHD was 15 days, 55 days and 267 days respectively for the April-June quarter this year.
During the same period last year, the median wait time for urgent surgeries, semi-urgent and non-urgent surgeries was 14 days, 50 days and 274 days respectively.
The data also showed that people in the WNSWLHD are waiting longer than those in the Sydney LHD for all categories of surgeries.
The median time for an urgent surgery, semi-urgent and non-urgent surgery in the Sydney LHD was five days, 30 days and 55 days this year.
Are public hospitals in the WNSWLHD overloaded with patients?
A WNSWLHD spokesperson didn’t provide the reason for the time-gap between the Sydney LHD and the WNSWLHD, but said an average of 99.6 per cent of patients received surgery within the clinically recommended timeframe for their level of urgency.
“Median wait times vary between hospitals for a variety of reasons and is not something that is specifically influenced by rurality,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson admitted that public hospitals in the local health district had performed more surgeries this year after it received additional funds.
Last year, the WNSWLHD received $976,000 in funding for additional surgery as part of the additional $3 million provided by the NSW Government for the increasing access to elective surgery initiative 2017.
“The funding ensured more cataract removal, total hip replacement and total knee replacement procedures were performed,” the spokesperson said.
Data showed that WNSWLHD performed 6.5 per cent more surgeries in the April-June quarter this year compared with the same period last year.
The current budget (2018-19) for the local health district has also registered an increase of $40 million on 2017-18.
The median wait for urgent surgeries was the highest in Dubbo (18 days), followed by Forbes (16), Mudgee (15) and Orange (13 days).
Lithgow, which doesn’t fall under the WNSWLHD, had the longest waiting period (20 days) for urgent surgeries.
Similarly, the median waiting time for semi-urgent surgeries was the highest in Bathurst (57 days), Orange (56 days) and Dubbo (56 days).
For non-urgent surgeries, the median waiting time was the longest in Bathurst (318 days) and Orange (314 days).
NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association general secretary, Brett Holmes, recently said the year-on-year pressure on public hospitals was taking a toll on nurses and midwives.
“We know presentations are rising, yet nurses and midwives are taking on that increased workload. It’s unsustainable to rely on a staffing model that we now know is being manipulated to save costs,” he said.
“The current system is not working. There are no minimum standards for nurse to patient ratios in emergency departments and children’s wards and the number of nurses can be averaged over the week with no mandated ratio for every shift.
“We need a new reliable shift-by-shift ratios system to provide a clear understanding of how many patients nurses have to care for.
“Our regional hospitals are experiencing a higher volume of patients, yet they receive less nursing hours per patient than city hospitals. It’s not right that a patient’s postcode can determine their level of care.”