Orange Hospital emergency department deals with increased demand over winter

The worst flu season on record is to blame for increased demand and pressure on the emergency department (ED) at Orange Hospital during winter.

Testing times: Flu season resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of patients presenting at Orange Hospital's emergency department.

Testing times: Flu season resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of patients presenting at Orange Hospital's emergency department.

The latest statistics from the Bureau of Health Information (BHI) shows an extra 775 patients presented at emergency between July and September, compared to the same period in 2016.

There was a 32 per cent increase in the number of patients in the triage category of resuscitation, while an additional 30 per cent attended for an emergency. Non-urgent cases were also up 17 per cent.

“Orange Health Service saw a peak in activity in hospital emergency departments during the July to September 2017 period as we experienced the worst flu season on record,” a Western NSW Local Health District spokesperson said.

“There were 7,911 emergency presentations at Orange Health Service which is an increase of almost 11 per cent when compared to the same quarter last year and higher than the NSW average of 9.4 per cent.”

The median time taken to leave the ED was 2 hours and 56 minutes, an increase of 22 minutes on the previous year.

Winter blues: The increase in demand for services at Orange Hospital emergency department was in line with demand across NSW.

Winter blues: The increase in demand for services at Orange Hospital emergency department was in line with demand across NSW.

One of the biggest increases came for those in the 90th percentile to leave the ED.

For July to September it was 12 hours and 37 minutes, an increase of two hours and 11 minutes compared to 2016.

The benchmark measurement of patients who leave the ED within four hours of presentation dropped to 71.3 per cent, down 2.6 per cent.

However it still exceeded the state average of 68.4 per cent.

Orange’s results matched up with a wider trend across the state, with more than 720,000 people across the state presenting to a hospital emergency department.

“Winter is typically the busiest quarter for NSW public hospitals, but this winter season was particularly busy for emergency departments throughout the state,” BHI acting chief executive Dr Kim Sutherland said.

Admissions to Orange Hospital were down 2.2 per cent for the quarter, while acute episodes were down 6.1 per cent or 344 cases. Non-acute episodes rose by 151 per cent from 143 in 2016 to 359 this year.

Overall length of stay and hospital bed days were down across most categories.

A spokesperson attributed the drop to a expansion in services around the region and a change in practice.

“The opening of the Cowra Dialysis Unit means people can get treatment closer to home instead of travelling to Orange for treatment,” the spokesperson said, as well as “a change of practice where patients who are treated and discharged from an emergency department are now recorded as an emergency department non-admitted attendee instead of an admitted patient.”

All elective surgery procedures were performed on time at Orange Health Service during the July-September period.

“We thank our staff for their dedication and hard work to ensure patients continue to receive high quality and timely care even in the face of unprecedented demand on our services as we experienced this quarter, during the worst flu season on record,” the spokesperson said.