STATE MP Adam Marshall has declared the falling number of patients being treated on time at local hospital emergency departments was further evidence the shortage of health professionals was having a negative impact on service delivery and community confidence.
Mr Marshall said data from the Bureau of Health Information, covering the January to March quarter this year, highlighted staff shortages were being felt in our hospital's emergency departments.
"While overall there has been modest movements in the number of ED presentations at our local hospitals on the same time last year, it's alarming how much treatment times are blowing out," Mr Marshall said.
"Inverell Hospital is most concerning, because despite seeing 340 less patients than the same reporting period last year, the number of ED presentations which were treated on time has fallen by 13.7 per cent.
"At Armidale Hospital the number of ED patients treated on time was down by more than 10 per cent to just 57 per cent of patients.
"Should Armidale Hospital experience a similar fall over the April to July quarter it runs the serious risk of less than half of presentations being seen on time - which is just not good enough," he said.
Just last month Mr Marshall said the hospital's emergency department was on the brink of collapse, because of a lack of staff at smaller hospitals around the Northern Tablelands.
"The evidence is there for health district management to see - presentations are down but the number of people forced longer to wait is up," the MP said.
"To me that says there are obviously not enough staff being rostered on to ED's to successfully manage the workload and something must change.
"Our existing nursing and medical staff are undertaking a herculean task - and doing the absolute best they can - but I think it's plain to see there's simply not enough of them and they're not being adequately supported to do their critical work."
Mr Marshall called on Hunter New England Health to use the data and fill gaps in ED staffing.
"The falling number of people being treated on time is concerning and goes to the heart of what the community, and local medical practitioners, have long been saying - there's not enough staff to cope with the workload.
"With the next report taking in the winter months and flu season, I will be watching these figures closely to see if the number of people not seen on time falls further, or whether ED staffing has 'scaled up' to reflect demand."
Last month, when Mr Marshall said staff in Armidale were overworked and at breaking point, saying they are acting as an unofficial emergency department for the likes of Glen Innes, Inverell and Tenterfield, Hunter New England Health (HNEH) accused him of exaggerating.
"Armidale Hospital's emergency department (ED) has at no stage been on the brink of collapse," executive director of rural and regional services Susan Heyman said at the time.
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