Emergency departments kept busy

AMANDA PARKINSON
Last updated 05:00 17/09/2013

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Emergency departments across Southland and Dunedin have reported a 10 per cent increase in people seeking treatment over the winter months.

Southland Hospital saw 9394 people, an increase from 8618 in winter 2012.

Dunedin Hospital recorded 11,333 presentations, compared with 10,130 the previous winter.

August was Southland Hospital's busiest month to date, with 3342 presentations.

Southern District Health Board executive director of patient services Lexie O'Shea said in winter hospitals were particularly busy.

"In situations of very high demand, we work with hospitals across the district, including rural trust hospitals, to ensure patients are treated close to home, and if necessary, may delay scheduled elective surgery," Ms O'Shea said.

Emergency departments in the Southern District Health Board area had a big number of people presenting with abdominal pain, chest pain, ankle strain/sprain or respiratory problems, a spokesperson said.

Board chief executive Carole Heatley said hospitals had reviewed processes and made several changes to operational procedures.

"We are improving the discharge process so that beds are available quicker for patients who are being admitted from ED," she said.

"We are introducing an electronic task list in place of pagers enabling junior doctors to prioritise their work better."

The Southern District Health Board did not answer The Southland Times' questions relating to the hospital's average occupancy rate and peak occupancy rate.

It also did not answer how the hospital had dealt with a bed block in July and whether a Ministry of Health nationwide report showing more people in lower socio-economics relied on ED's rather than GPs was true in Southland and Otago.

Due to the lack of response The Southland Times is unable to report Southland Hospital or Dunedin Hospital's occupancy rates for the winter months.

In a report released by the district's advisory committee it was reported "hospital occupancy remained high over several periods".

It also reported "a higher level of admissions and acuity of patients had caused a 'bed block' in the hospital intermittently through July...".

Bed Blocking is a hospital term used to describe a situation whereby a patient remains admitted because there is no other suitable place for them to receive care. This leaves others unable to be admitted because of a lack of beds.

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