8 Feb 2023

Wellington and Hutt hospital emergency departments 'very busy', unclear why

2:59 pm on 8 February 2023
A protest  by midwives and families will pass by Hutt Hospital tomorrow

Hutt Hospital. Photo: Rosie Gordon/RNZ

Both the Wellington and Hutt hospitals are experiencing unusually high demand in their emergency departments (EDs).

"We can confirm that both EDs are currently very busy," Te Whatu Ora Capital, Coast and Hutt Valley said on Wednesday.

However, claims some patients were waiting nearly 24 hours to be seen were not correct, it said.

It was deferring some non-urgent planned care, "where clinically appropriate", to help manage the high demand in its ED, it added.

Interim lead hospital and specialist services manager Jamie Duncan said people were being seen based on clinical need rather than by when they had turned up.

"We recognise that long wait times can be frustrating and we sympathise."

The reason for the spike was not clear. Occupancy fluctuated from day to day, with occupancy often high, especially at Wellington Hospital.

"We have service plans in place to help manage surges through our ED," Duncan said.

This could include calling in more staff, using phone healthlines and discharging patients, where that was safe.

"All decisions around patient care are made on a case-by-case basis, by clinical teams, with patient safety as the key priority."

Many hospital EDs have been under pressure for months.

Overrun nurses at Wellington ED last November became so frustrated they began handing out cards to patients with the health minister's contact details.

One patient wrote later of just wanting to "get out of the awfulness that was the ED".

Duncan said Health NZ was working nationally on hospital flow, prioritising urgent care and increasing regional coordination.

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