Hunter New England Health responds to Bureau of Health report

Hunter New England Health District’s emergency departments are exceeding the state average for waiting times, according to the BHI Healthcare quarterly activity and performance report for April to June 2018.

Mr Michael DiRienzo, Chief Executive of Hunter New England Local Health District, said that it was pleasing to see the district was continuing its focus on improving the patient experience through reductions in waiting times.

While no specific figures were supplied for our local hospital, they showed the region as a whole had improved.

“Overall, our district is performing better than the state average when it comes to reductions in waiting times in emergency,” Mr DiRienzo said.

“We saw 101,690 patients presented to our emergency departments and of these 75.2 per cent of people depart within four hours.”

Across the district, 77.9 per cent started their treatment within recommended timeframes, an improvement on the same period last year.

The 2018-19 budget for HNELHD is nearly $2.3 billion, an increase of over $86 million on the 2017-18 annualised budget.

Between mid-2012 and mid 2018 HNELHD has increased its workforce by an additional 1,115 full time equivalent staff – an increase of 10.6 per cent including 277 more doctors and 627 more nurses.

Mr DiRienzo said 98.1 per cent of all elective surgeries were performed on time across the district. Of these, 99.8 per cent of urgent surgeries, 98.8 per cent of semi-urgent surgeries and 96.7 per cent of non-urgent surgeries were performed on time.

Of the district’s 15 hospitals captured in the BHI report, five ranked perfectly for elective surgeries performed on time. Particularly encouraging was the performance of the rural and regional hospitals.

“Our best performing hospitals include Calvary Mater Newcastle, Narrabri, Cessnock, Inverell, Moree and Muswellbrook Hospitals where 100 per cent of elective surgeries were performed on time,” said Mr DiRienzo.

“Kurri Kurri saw an increase in surgeries performed on time, while Singleton maintained its 100 per cent timeliness. Manning Hospital also did well, with 99.8 per cent of elective surgeries performed on time even with more than 670 surgeries performed, a seven per cent increase.

“Tamworth Hospital has maintained an excellent surgery performance with 99 per cent of its 956 procedures performed within the specified timeframe. The hospital continues to monitor all wait lists every day and is working hard to ensure people receive their surgery sooner.”

This performance across all categories is better than the state average. The waiting times for all elective surgeries are well within the recommended timeframes.

“Our staff have been going above and beyond to ensure we continue to meet the demands of the community, and I am grateful for their ongoing commitment to delivering high quality health care across the region,” Mr DiRienzo said.


John Hunter Hospital performed particularly well during the April to June period, with 19,898 patients presenting to the ED and, despite this, achieved a 5.4 per cent improvement in treatment commencing on time.

Mr DiRienzo thanked the hardworking staff who implemented a range of strategies to deliver this high level of service.

“Our highly trained nursing staff monitor ED waiting rooms to ensure patients are commencing required treatment as promptly as possible,” Mr DiRienzo explained.

“In addition, we have a Clinical Initiatives Nurse monitoring and assessing patients in the Waiting Room and commencing simple treatments on patients while they wait.

“We have also reviewed rosters to ensure there are more doctors available during peak periods, and we have further increased the number of doctors working in the John Hunter Hospital ED.”

Tamworth Hospital’s ED performance over the April to June quarter remained stable, with 10,544 patients presenting and, of these, 69.7 per cent of patients started their treatment on time, and 71.5 per cent leaving the ED within four hours of their presentation.

“There is a ‘Whole of Hospital’ focus on improving patient flow through the ED and the hospital, and we are working to attract senior doctors to Tamworth to achieve the best staff mix and to ensure patients are being seen quickly,” Mr DiRienzo said.

“Where we have seen an increase in demand, beyond what is typical for that hospital at that time of year, we are looking at options to better manage services to the local community.”

Belmont Hospital is using additional nursing staff during periods of increased activity and providing quicker escalation to radiography to access ultrasound and x-ray appointments.

The sistrict performed more than 7,767 surgeries from January to March 2018, a slight increase of 50 on the same period last year. There were significantly more non-urgent surgeries, which were up by 115, nearly 4 per cent.

In 2018-19 the NSW Government is investing a record $22.9 billion in health, representing a $1.1 billion increase over the 2017-18 Budget. This includes $19.2 billion towards improving services in hospitals in NSW this year.

This story Hunter New England Health says their wait times are improving first appeared on The Armidale Express.