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  • Thousands leaving NSW emergency units without treatment

    Author: AAP

The NSW health system remains under "enormous stress" with almost one in every 12 people visiting NSW emergency departments leaving without seeing a doctor or finishing treatment.

A record 770,089 people presented to emergency departments between January and March, but 63,282 left without being discharged amid long post-pandemic wait times, the quarterly report from the Bureau of Health Information shows.

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Health Minister Ryan Park says the system is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This report highlights systems still under enormous stress and still starting to emerge from the pressures of COVID," he said on Wednesday.

The walkout figure is a slight improvement on the record numbers between April and June 2022, when more than 76,000 patients left emergency without completing their treatment.

But the figures remain above pre-COVID pandemic levels.

Almost 350,000 ambulance call-outs were made during the first three months of the year, the highest number since reporting began in 2010, with response times improving after getting worse last year.

Increasing demand for ambulances and emergency services began before the pandemic and showed no sign of slowing.

There were 10,868 of the highest-priority ambulance responses for patients with life-threatening conditions, up 16.1 per cent from the same time last year.

About two-thirds of the highest-priority cases were reached within 10 minutes, an improvement on last year.

Some 44 per cent of priority-one cases were reached by an ambulance within 15 minutes, up from a record low last year.

In general, ambulance patients were still waiting longer than before the pandemic, the report noted.

Mr Park said the government had plans to ease pressure on ambulance services.

"Essentially we look at what the calls are coming in, identify calls that we might be able to service in a different way, and triage those back so that they're not requiring an ambulance," he said.

A separate survey by the bureau last year found patients were overwhelmingly satisfied with the care being given by the state's paramedics despite increased call-out numbers.

President of the Australian Paramedics Association NSW Chris Kastelan said one in five ambulance patients arriving at hospital were still waiting too long to be transferred into care.

"These sobering numbers once again highlight that we desperately need action on the recommendations that came from the inquiry into ramping," he said.

A parliamentary inquiry made 12 recommendations in December, including that all hospitals experiencing bed block build dedicated weather-proof facilities away from the elements, and the government work to reduce hospital occupancy to 85 per cent.

AMA NSW president Michael Bonning said the report would give the government direction on how and where to direct funding to improve the system.

"There is pressure on hospitals. There is pressure on ambulance services. There is pressure on public health services," he said.

"We need to properly fund and resource all parts of the health system - and we must keep them connected."

The minister said he was focused on the entire NSW health system and trying to provide multiple pathways for patients to better access healthcare.

The report also highlights the sector's reliance on adequate staffing as health workers continue calling for a six per cent pay rise rather than the 4.5 per cent they were offered this week.


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