Hospital wait time 'a joke'

22:38, Aug 13 2014
Ivy Holdem
Jacqui Smyth and her four month-old daughter Ivy Holdem.

An upset Hawera family will travel for urgent medical care instead of returning to their local emergency department.

Jacqui Smyth took her four month-old baby daughter, Ivy Holdem, to the Hawera Hospital emergency department on Friday, August 1 and waited seven hours to see a doctor.

Smyth said although she recognises more acute cases presented during that time needed to be seen first, a seven-hour wait with a young child in tow is unacceptable.

Hawera Hospital services manager Leigh Cleland has apologised for the long wait and moved to reassure the public that they need to present locally if in need of emergency treatment.

Baby Ivy had been unwell leading up to her visit to Hawera Hospital and woke on the morning of August 1 with worsening symptoms.

"I found a rash on her in the morning and I rang up my doctor and they couldn't get her in," she said.


Advised by medical centre staff about the risk of measles, Smyth made the call to take her to Hawera Hospital for peace of mind.

"We got in there just after 12pm and we were pretty much seen by a nurse straight away," she said.

"We were moved over into another room and no-one came and saw us again for maybe three to four hours."

At 5pm she was advised that one of the doctors had left but that they were in line to be seen soon.

An ambulance came in, delaying their treatment further.

"Which is fine, I understand that, but at this stage we've probably been waiting for five or six hours and then the doctor finally came in at about 7.20pm when I was getting ready to leave."

Smyth read an article regarding wait times at Hawera Hospital later that night and found the quoted 43-minute average a bitter pill to swallow.

"I understand that she wasn't the most desperate to see a doctor, there were more important people than her but seven hours is a joke," she said.

In future, Smyth and her partner Jason Holdem will take Ivy and her two year-old brother Nixon to New Plymouth for care.

Hawera Hospital's Cleland said she wouldn't deny that some patients waited a lot longer than the average and "we are very sorry when this occurs".

"On average we see 45 patients per day," she said.

"We did have a slightly busier day with 50 through on the day the Holdem family presented."

Cleland said Hawera Hospital was staffed with one doctor on duty at all times and two working when the department was busiest between 12pm and 4pm.

"The Ministry of Health has a target of all patients seen within six hours of arrival, Hawera meets this target 97.7 per cent of the time," she said.

"Current wait times are within boundaries and Ministry expectations, there are of course exceptions when the unit is very busy or very quiet."

She said it was important for patients to access care in a timely manner and if possible and appropriate, be close to their home.

"People should be taking their children to the GP in the first instance unless it is out of hours or an emergency," she said.

"There is no reassurance that travelling to New Plymouth will make a difference to wait times.

"Taranaki Base Hospital ED is busy and patients have at times had long wait times there also".