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Patients waiting more than two days for a bed as progress cutting emergency department delay stalls

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Progress in eliminating lengthy delays in public hospital emergency departments appears to have stalled, with many patients continuing to face a dangerously long waits of up to two days or more for admission to an inpatient bed.
The annual scientific conference of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine has been told that the steady gains made since 2008 in reducing access block in hospital emergency departments seems to have come to an end.
Australian National University researcher Professor Drew Richardson told the conference that mean occupancy and access block rates in June this year were not “significantly lower” than in 2012, while the incidence of 24-hour stays had jumped to its highest level ever.
Professor Richardson said the results of his study indicated that the states and territories would struggle to reach the 2015 National Emergency Access Target (NEAT) of ensuring at least 90 per cent of all patients left hospital emergency departments with four hours of arrival (the so-called four hour rule).
“It is unlikely that any jurisdictions – or even many hospitals – will achieve the intended NEAT four-hour targets in 2013,” he said. “Twenty-four hour stays were at their highest level ever, with a particular increase in Western Australia, Tasmania and the Territories.”
Professor Richardson’s study, which was conducted in June and received data from 96 per cent of all eligible emergency departments, found that 35 per cent of patients were waiting for admission, and of these, 65 per cent had been waiting longer than eight hours.
In addition, 73 patients in 25 hospitals had experienced “dangerously long” delays of longer than a day awaiting admission, and seven hospitals reported they had a patient forced to wait more than 48 hours for an inpatient bed.
Adrian Rollins