Figures released at the annual meeting of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine in Canberra indicate that substantial backlogs of non-emergency patients in emergency departments (ED) are taking up space and resources; the majority of ED's workloads involve caring for people that are just waiting to be admitted to general hospitals.
The level of `access block' describes the proportion of patients who must wait in the ED for over 8 hours in order to access an in-patient-general hospital-bed. Access block presents a snapshot of patient load weighing down on EDs.
Based on information gathered from 76 EDs on Monday, August 30 at 10:00am, the national average number of patients being treated in EDs was 27.7. Among them, 7.5 were access block patients. There were also approximately 3.9 patients who had waited over 16 hours, and 1.2 who had waited more than 24.
New Zealand figures also indicated significant access block across the Tasman. Data collected in May and August from all 27 of the country's hospitals was similar to Australian data.
The newest figures indicate that there have been no improvements since 2009. This is in spite of the `four-hour-rule' initiative, which saw hospitals receive payments for meeting patient-turnaround targets. This is regrettable, "particularly since there has been all this work done over the last year", said Australian National University Medical School's Drew Richardson.
Dr. Richardson says shifting to a 7-day-per-week surgical roster would alleviate patient build-ups, and thus ease the pressure on wards.