A significant increase in the number of people presenting to emergency departments across the Murrumbidgee Local Health District has been attributed to many people being hesitant to go to hospital last year during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The latest Bureau of Health Information Healthcare Quarterly Report, tracking figures from June to April this year, revealed a 35.5 per cent increase in ED attendances, up by 8944 patients to 34,156 compared to the same period last year.
The number of non-urgent and semi-urgent (triage 5 and 4) patients saw the biggest increase across the MLHD, jumping 45.9 and 42.1 per cent respectively.
MLHD executive director of medical services Len Bruce said the increase in presentations to the emergency department was not a surprise and likely a result of low numbers last year.
"The emergency department presentations have increased which is not unexpected because we knew there were patterns of hospital avoidance during the first COVID outbreak last year," Dr Bruce said.
"I do think COVID hesitancy was the major factor because remember from April to June last year we were in the first wave of COVID."
"EDs are getting busier but it's still not quite as busy as it was pre-COVID."
There were 11,820 ED attendances at Wagga Wagga Base Hospital, an increase of 32.1 per cent compared to last year.
The report also revealed that the number of elective surgery cases performed in the MLHD from April to June was the highest ever, with a total of 2554 surgeries conducted.
Up to 1196 more surgeries were completed this year, an increase of 88.1 per cent.
MLHD clinical operations surgical services lead Ray Godbier described the number of elective surgeries completed as a huge achievement which many people can be proud of.
"I'd really like to thank the medical staff, the surgeons and the anaesthetists, the nursing staff, our sterilising team, our radiographers, pharmacists and allied health staff," Ms Godbier said.
"Without that whole of team approach we wouldn't have been able to achieve what we did."
Ms Godbier attributed new strategies and a renewed outlook on completing surgeries across the health district as the main ways in which the feat was completed.
"One of the strategies that we put in place was to ensure all our elective lists were fully and optimally booked," she said.
"If we had any cancellations we were calling other patients in to fill those vacancies at short notice.
"We also increased surgical activity across the region by upping the number of surgeries conducted at regional hospitals which also meant more people could receive their treatment closer to home."
The MLHD started the quarter with a big backlog of overdue surgeries but was able to bring that number down to zero by June 30.
"We were one of the only LHDs within the state that was at what we call triple zero for critical, semi-critical and non-urgent elective surgeries ... that's a huge achievement," Ms Godbier said.
The strategies put in place during this quarter will continue to be utilised into the future following significant positive feedback, Ms Godbier said.
Dr Bruce was full of praise for the surgical teams following the achievement and said the MLHD managed to also remove 600 people from its waiting list for elective surgery.
"Just think about those extra 600 people that have had their life-saving operations done," he said.
"People that were waiting for joint replacements, cataract surgeries, or children waiting for ears, nose and throat procedures."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: