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GP shortage puts pressure on emergency department

THE shortage of GPs in the Clarence Valley has flowed onto Grafton Base Hospital, with an increase in the number of non-urgent and semi-urgent patients presenting at the emergency department.

The Bureau of Health Information has released the July to September report that tracks the number of people heading to emergency departments in NSW public hospitals.

During this period, Grafton saw the closure of Jacaranda Health and an influx of patients trying to find a new doctor.

From July to September, out of 5798 patients presenting in Grafton Base Hospital's emergency department 686 people presented with non-urgent issues, or triage 5, and 2590 with semi-urgent injuries, also known as triage 4.

This is an increase of more than 100 patients with non-urgent emergency presentations from the same time last year.

The figures are also up from the April to June quarter of 2016 where Grafton Base Hospital had 613 non-urgent patients through the emergency department.

Wayne Jones, Northern NSW Local Health District Chief Executive said they welcomed the latest BHI quarterly report for the whole district.

"Annual figures show that the Grafton Base Hospital emergency department has not seen a significant change in the number of triage 4 and triage 5 patients as a proportion of overall emergency department presentations over recent years, however the total number of emergency department presentations has increased slightly during the past three years," he said.

"The latest BHI Report performance indicators show that GBH emergency department has seen an improvement in the time taken for patients to start treatment, as well as an increase in the number of patients leaving the emergency department within four hours or less.

"The GBH emergency department has been able to maintain operations and the hospital has coped well in absorbing any changes to patient numbers and service demands."

It was reported that Grafton Base Hospital's median wait time had decreased to two hours and 11 minutes and its 95th percentile is 10 hours and 18 minutes. Both these figures are down from the same period last year.

Maclean District Hospital has been experiencing a steady flow of triage 4 and 5 patients through the emergency department.

With their non-urgent figures sitting at 141, which is down from 202 in the same period last year.

Their semi-urgent figures sitting at 1141 people through emergency from July to September, which is only marginally higher than the same period last year.

"Maclean District Hospital has not seen any real increase in the number of triage 4 patients presenting to the Emergency Department over the last three years, while the number of triage 5 patients has reduced in that time," Mr Jones said.

"Over the last three years, the total number of emergency department presentations at MDH has increased, however this has not had a significantly affect on the operation of the emergency department."

Triage 4, or semi-urgent, describes issues like sprained ankles or an earache and triage 5, or non-urgent, refers to issues like small cuts or abrasions.



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