Non-urgent ED use is a growing problem

HELEN HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 09/12/2013

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Taranaki people are the third worst in the country for heading to hospital emergency departments for minor ailments, behind Wairarapa and the West Coast.

The number of people going to the ED in New Plymouth was more than 10 per cent up on last year, and 20 per cent up on two years ago.

In Hawera the number has increased 8.4 per cent from two years ago and now averaged 47 people a day.

Two years ago there were about 80 patients a day in the New Plymouth ED and now there were more than 100 a day, Taranaki District Health Board clinical services manager Gillian Campbell said.

"Many are coming with minor ills and ailments such as sprains, sore throats and diarrhoea."

The volume of non-urgent patients attending both emergency departments was recognised as an increasing problem, she said.

It was a community issue and the DHB was working with the Midlands Health Network and their GPs to look at solutions, she said.

"It is important that people get their prescription filled early especially at this time of year so they don't have to come to EDs for things such as filling their prescriptions."

Midlands Health Network chief executive John Macaskill-Smith said the number of people going to ED for minor problems was almost twice as many as in Waikato.

They were trying to understand the cause of the high number of people going to ED and where the patients were coming from, Mr Macaskill-Smith said.

He wondered whether it was because of cost, issues relating GPs being at full capacity, or not enough free slots at the practice.

People in Taranaki were accustomed to ED being quite accessible, he said.

"They don't have to wait long and it's free. It's become a viable option for people."

Midlands had been looking at the way general practices were configured, to see whether changes could be made, he said.

But Mr Macaskill-Smith said the problem was not a lack of GPs.

While he conceded South Taranaki was a "bit tight", he said with Mountainview Medical and Ruanui Health Centre now operating, it was looking better.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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