Quicker turnaround of patients at Waikato Hospital

NICOLA BRENNAN-TUPARA
Last updated 05:00 29/10/2012

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Waikato medics are getting patients in and out of the hospital quicker than ever before, new figures show.

As of Thursday, there were 18 patients who'd been in the Waikato Hospital for 20 or more days, excluding newborns in intensive care and older persons. One orthopaedic patient had been in there over 60 days. But on average, on any given day, there are between 16 and 18 patients staying over 20 days.

That's around half the number of long stay patients they were seeing three years ago. In 2008/09 the average was between 35-40 every day - about a ward and a half of patients.

Back then elective surgery was being cancelled due to lack of bed space, Waikato District Health Board chief operating officer Jan Adams said.

"In the last 12 months we haven't had to cancel elective surgery because of long wait patients," Mrs Adams said.

Since 2009, the hospital has put a greater focus on long stay patients.

Now they track every patient who has spent over 10 days in the hospital - reviewing their cases daily.

If a patient stays longer than 20 days, the clinical nurse manager reviews their cases to see what needs to be done.

When they started in 2008/09 long stay patients were taking up 44,707 bed days - or 23 per cent of their bed days - but only accounted for 2 per cent of inpatient through-put.

"So they were a small number, having a high impact. It did create capacity restraints, which contributed to elective surgery cancellations."

They'd since reduced that to 35,000 bed days. On average it costs around $468 a day to stay in hospital - or $1200 for those in intensive care.

"It's amazing work really."

Mrs Adams said it meant less delays getting patients from the emergency department through to a ward, as more beds were freed-up. It was also better for patients and their families, she said.

While they had no actual target on how long they'd like to have people stay, the shorter the stay the better for all.

"But there will come a point where you can't go any lower for whatever reason. Some patients do need to stay because their clinical condition warrants it."

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- Waikato Times

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