COVID-19 and washing hands

As if the expected upswing in presentations and admissions from coronavirus isn’t enough to send shockwaves through public hospitals the latest performance figures show that facilities run by the Northern NSW Local Health District are already bursting at the seams. 

Data released in the Bureau of Health Information’s Healthcare Quarterly Oct-Dec 2019 confirm that hospitals within the LHD’s remit (Maclean up to Tweed Heads) faced a demand increase on almost every indicator, including arrivals at ED by ambulance (up by 4.1 per cent to 8416 over the past year), a 6.8 per cent rise in elective surgery, and longer wait times, and a 5.7 per cent increase in admitted patient activity. 

In the year analysed, 19 more babies were born in Northern NSW public hospitals. 

Despite these increased pressures, the system generally coped well, sitting close to the NSW average results in most areas, and bettering them in some: Median time for patients to leave the ED is now 2h 04m – 51 minutes under the NSW average. 

However, waiting times for non-urgent elective surgery were concerning - only 79.9 per cent of these procedures were performed on time, compared to 93.1 per cent for the state average. 

LHD CE Wayne Jones said increased demand was trending across the state and in the circumstances the LHD had performed well. He complimented staff for doing a “fantastic job”. 

The North Coast will be pinning its hopes on these staff as Covid-19 extends it reach into the population in the weeks and months ahead.

New rules for hospital visitors

Visiting hours at hospitals in the Northern NSW Local Health District have been reduced from 3 April in response to COVID-19. There is now a limit of one visitor per patient in all public hospitals.

Visiting hours have been restricted to one hour, once per day and can now only take place between 1pm and 6pm daily in the patient’s room.

“A patient’s designated visitor will be provided with detailed information regarding social distancing and must adhere to all personal protective and hand hygiene requirements already in place when on site,’ Wayne Jones said.