He called for “urgent action” by the state government to turn the tide, including investment in resources, capacity and non-emergency pathways.
“In an emergency, every minute matters. For cardiac arrest, the chances of survival can drop by 10 percent for every minute that treatment is delayed,” Kastelan said.
Overall, ambulances responded to 330,591 calls from July to September, an increase of 3.3% compared to the same quarter of 2019, before the pandemic.
The executive director of the Office of Health Information, Dr. Diane Watson, said the results were slightly better than the April-June period, but still significantly below pre-COVID-19 levels.
Patients also continued to face long waits in emergency departments, even as fewer people overall went to emergency departments (744,853) compared to the prior quarter and pre-pandemic levels.
But the number of people classified in the most severe categories (classification 1 and 2) increased by 10.7% (583 additional patients) and 11% (10,993 additional patients), respectively, compared to the same quarter of 2019.
Overall, one in three patients waited too long for treatment, the report showed.
Almost half of triage 2 (emergency, life-threatening) patients waited longer than the clinically recommended 10 minutes for treatment, although these results were an improvement over the record time-to-treatment results from the previous trimester.
Nearly three in four patients who were treated and admitted spent four hours or more in the ED, and one in 10 patients who were treated and admitted spent more than 22 hours and five minutes, the worst outcome since which began the IHB report in 2010.
The president of the Australian College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Clare Skinner, said that a large number of triage 2 patients, including people with life-threatening problems such as chest pain, stroke and road traffic accidents, demonstrate that emergency departments continue to be under significant pressure.
“Patients will continue to experience excessively long waits for care, and staff will continue to experience stress, burnout, and neglect, until we radically improve coordination, resources, and integration across the health system,” Skinner said.
Patients at the Sydney West and South East hospitals waited longer in the emergency department, with approximately 70 per cent not receiving treatment within clinically recommended guidelines.
A total of 99,985 patients were on waiting lists for elective surgery at the end of the quarter, with 17,893 waiting too long, based on clinical benchmarks.
But this result was down from a record in the previous quarter, and almost all urgent elective surgeries were performed on time (98.9 per cent) as NSW hospitals performed 55,493 elective operations between July and September.
The president of the Australian Medical Association of New South Wales, Dr Michael Bonning, said the state needed a long-term plan to rebuild elective surgery in public hospitals beyond the measures introduced to work during the delay of the pandemic, which included agreements with private hospitals to share the burden.
“The wait times are too long for people who are suffering,” Bonning said.
NSW Under-Secretary for Health, Assistant Professor Matthew Daly, said the report showed the health system was on the mend after an extremely busy winter amid the ongoing pandemic and furloughing of staff.
“This has been one of the most challenging years on record for the healthcare system and July through September was no exception, but we have begun to see improvements in the timeliness of care provided,” Daly said.
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