Nepean waiting times in emergency getting worse

Nepean Hospital has recorded the worst treatment delays of any emergency department in the state for the second consecutive quarter, the latest official data shows.

Nepean is under immense pressure from more patients with complex chronic conditions, the Bureau of Health Information's April to June report shows.

The data suggests a suite of stopgap measures has failed to improve treatment times as the beleaguered ED limps towards its planned redevelopment, which is not due to be completed until 2021.

One in 10 patients with imminently life-threatening conditions (such as very severe pain, serious chest pain or breathing problems) were waiting 53 minutes or longer for their treatment to start at Nepean's ED, more than five times the recommended 10-minute target. Roughly 58 per cent of these "Triage 2-emergency" patients waited too long for treatment (more than 10 minutes), a 16.7 percentage point dive compared with the same quarter last year, the biggest backslide of any NSW hospital.

Overall, 44 per cent - over 7600 patients - waited longer than the recommended timeframes for treatment at Nepean's ED, 11.9 percentage points worse than the same quarter in 2017, despite the number of all ED presentations increasing by just 2.5 percentage points. The busy western Sydney ED has been under considerable pressure, with an additional 578 "emergency" patients presenting to the ED over the three-month period, a 21 percentage point increase compared with the same quarter in 2017.

The average wait time for "Triage 2-emergency" patients was 13 minutes, falling well short of the health ministry's targets, which stipulate 80 per cent of "emergency" patients should be treated within 10 minutes.

An extra 499 "Triage 3-urgent" patients presented at Nepean over the same period.

"T3-urgent" patients with potentially life-threatening conditions such a heavily bleeding wound or major fractures waited 37 minutes on average at Nepean ED. One in 10 waited two hours and 23 minutes or longer, again well below the ministry's 30-minute target for 75 per cent of T3 patients. Other Western Sydney hospitals recorded significant improvements in ED wait times, including Westmead, Fairfield and Blacktown Hospitals.

"We saw these other hospitals of similar size [to Nepean] improve on all three emergency department measures even in the context of an increase in presentations," BHI acting chief executive Hilary Rowell said.

But Nepean's ED was under greater strain due to the immense jump in patients with severe and complex conditions coming through its doors, Ms Rowell said.

When the BHI's January to April quarterly report showed Nepean Hospital had the poorest ED wait times in NSW, Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District said it had implemented interim measures to help the hospital cope with its rising patient numbers until the hospital's planned redevelopment.

Meanwhile, Katoomba Hospital’s emergency department maintained its 8-minute average waiting time to see Triage 2-emergency patients.

But one in 10 of those patients (with life-threatening conditions such as serious chest pain) waited 28 minutes for treatment, compared with the state average of 24 minutes. But it was considerably better than Nepean’s 53 minutes.

Triage 3 patients (heavily bleeding wounds or major fractures) also waited an average of 8 minutes for treatment at Katoomba, with one in 10 waiting 75 minutes, well above the state mark of 63 minutes.

Seventy-seven per cent of all patients were out of the Katoomba emergency department within four hours.

  • Sydney Morning Herald