NSW Health continues to perform well despite Covid challenges

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SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 10: A paramedic unloads a patient from an ambulance at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital on January 10, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. NSW has recorded 18 deaths in the last 24 hours from COVID-19, including a child under five. (Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images)

NSW hospitals continued to deliver exceptional care in a timely manner despite the significant challenges of COVID-19 continuing in the October to December 2021 quarter, according to the Bureau of Health Information (BHI) Healthcare Quarterly report.

It was another busy period for NSW Health services, as it followed the peak of the Delta outbreak and included the emergence of the Omicron variant.

There were 763,257 emergency department attendances during this period. There were also 320,729 ambulance responses, the highest of any October to December quarter since BHI began reporting in 2010.

Treatment started on time for almost three in four (73.9 per cent) emergency department patients, despite the challenges presented by COVID-19 and the ongoing increase of patients attending in triage category 2 (emergency), which reached more than 102,000 in October to December 2021.

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NSW Ambulance also saw an increase in its most critical cases, responding to almost 9,000 priority 1A cases, an increase of 21.3 per cent – or more than 1,500 responses – compared with the same quarter in 2020. The median response time for these highest priority cases was 8.8 minutes, well within the 10-minute benchmark.

“That the people of NSW continued to receive safe, high-quality care during this very challenging period is due to the outstanding efforts of our healthcare workers,” said NSW Health Executive Director of System Information and Analytics Branch, Sharon Smith.

“The impact of COVID-19 has unfortunately led to delays in some areas and we want to thank the community for their patience and understanding. We remain committed to ensuring non-urgent elective procedures that were delayed during the necessary temporary pauses caused by the Delta and Omicron waves are done as quickly as possible.”

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NSW Health still performed 46,690 elective surgeries during the quarter, with the number of procedures performed increasing each week from mid-October to mid-December. Emergency and urgent elective surgeries continued to be performed throughout this period, with almost all urgent procedures (99.7 per cent) performed on time.

The 2021-22 NSW Health total budget is $30.2 billion, including an $80 million investment to fast track elective surgeries, focusing on surgery delayed by COVID-19.