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Demand Remains High as NSW Healthcare Services Gradually Recover from Pandemic.

New South Wales (NSW) public hospital and ambulance service activity has improved despite high demand, according to a healthcare quarterly report released today.

The Bureau of Health Information (BHI) healthcare quarterly report (pdf) compared the activity and performance of NSW ambulance, emergency department (ED), elective surgery and admitted patient services from April to June 2023 with previous years.

Ambulance Response Sky Rocketed

The report found ambulance activity had 357,491 responses, the highest number of any quarter since BHI began reporting in 2010.

Similarly, data found 177,594 emergency (P1 cases), the highest of any April to June quarter since 2010, and 13,525 highest priority (P1A) responses for patients with a life-threatening condition, the highest of any quarter since 2010.

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However, BHI Chief Executive Dr. Diane Watson said ambulance response times improved from the record-long waits one year ago.

The percentage of P1 cases with a call to ambulance arrival time within 15 mins and 30 mins was 44.7 percent and 86.3 percent, respectively, an increase compared to record lows from April to June 2022.

Further improvements were the percentage of P1A responses within 10 minutes was 64.3 percent, and half of P1A patients waited longer than 8.3 minutes compared with April to June 2022.

But while ambulance activity skyrocketed, emergency department (ED) attendance slightly decreased.

ED Attendance Down but Higher than Pre-COVID Levels

BHI found 770,654 ED attendances, down 3.1 percent compared with April to June 2022 but slightly higher than pre-COVID.

An upward trend continued with 6,385 triage 1 presentations and 117,949 triage 2 presentations; however, compared to the record low in April to June 2022 (62.8 percent), 65.8 percent of all patients had their treatment start on time. But one in 10 patients spent longer than 11 hours in the ED, the longest of any April to June quarter since 2010.

“However, just 56.7 percent of patients left the ED within four hours compared with 57.6 percent a year earlier,” Dr Watson said. This was the lowest amount recorded of any quarter since BHI began reporting in 2010.

Additionally, 74.1 percent of patients who arrived by ambulance had their care transferred to ED staff within 30 minutes, slightly higher than the record low from April to June 2022 (72.5 percent), while one in 10 patients waited longer than 69 minutes – well above pre-COVID levels.

Elective Surgery Gained Momentum

Additionally, the report found that elective surgery in the state saw a steady increase in numbers, too.

The report found 60,499 elective surgeries were performed, with Dr. Watson saying this was 12.6 percent higher compared to the same quarter last year and slightly above pre-pandemic levels.

“Almost 80 percent (79.0) of all elective surgeries were performed on time – up from 74.7 percent a year earlier,” she said. That’s an increase of 4.3 percentage points compared to the record low from April to June 2022 and up across all urgency categories.

However, a downward trend showed one in 10 patients who received non-urgent surgery waited longer than 498 days compared to a record high in October to December 2022.

“The number of patients on the (elective surgery) waiting list who had waited longer than clinically recommended dropped to 9,142—less than half the record 18,748 a year earlier.” There were 94,238 patients on the waiting list at the end of June 2023, still higher than pre-pandemic levels.

Of these 94,238 patients, most were waiting for non-urgent (65.3 percent) and semi-urgent (34.6 percent) surgeries. In the same reporting period, admitted patient episodes increased.

Admitted Patients Higher Than 2022

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