There has been a hefty increase in the number of people seeking treatment at region’s hospital emergency departments.
In the three months from April until June 2018, 10,349 patients went to Wagga Base Hospital’s emergency department, up 984 from the 9365 recorded for the same period in 2017.
Griffith Base Hospital’s emergency staff saw 185 more patients, up from 4723 in April to June 2017 to 4908 patients in 2018.
Wagga Base Hospital emergency department director Steve Wood said the 11 per cent increase was a “huge number”.
“That’s an extra thousand presentations that we’ve had over the three-month period,” he said.
“Obviously that stretches our resources and stretches the hospital’s resources.”
Dr Wood said there had been a “significant increase” in the number of trauma cases at Wagga Base.
“That’s everything from falls to football to road accidents,” he said.
Dr Wood said there were several factors other behind the increase in numbers, including a growing regional population and new services at Wagga Base that were bringing in patients who may have previously gone elsewhere.
“Probably the greatest contributor is that we are all getting a bit older and, progressively, we are absorbing more health services,” he said.
Dr Wood said hospital staff, who met daily to discuss the department’s patient numbers, had noted a much smaller effect from influenza on patients numbers, which was a significant issue last year.
So far this winter and early spring, there have been far fewer cases of influenza and respiratory illness compared to 2017.
“We’re very lucky this year in terms of the fact we haven’t had the burden of respiratory illness that we had last year,” Dr Wood said.
“So, our increased activity has been unrelated to season events this time.”
Dr Wood said there was no significant load being put on the emergency department by people who were going to the hospital instead of visiting their GP.
“We always encourage people where it is appropriate to go to the GP, but those patients don’t actually form a huge burden in the emergency department,” he said.
“We have a very good level of GP cover in this community and for the most part people use of those services.
“But an increasingly elderly population requires increasing health services.”
Murumbidgee Local Health District chief executive Jill Ludford said the average transfer time of patients arriving by ambulance to the emergency department “held steady” at nine minutes.