Which hospitals in New Zealand are meeting all three of the Government’s triage benchmarks for safe and timely treatment of emergency department patients?
Most hospitals do not, because most hospitals in New Zealand do not have emergency departments. However, of those that do, the first and most critical target is nearly always met but two others are usually not met.
Why was an 83-year-old woman with dementia forced to spend 4 days in North Shore Hospital’s emergency department with a broken hip, lying on a trolley under glaring fluorescent lights, without any painkillers or anything to eat or drink—for 4 days—and is that the sort of care New Zealanders can expect for our oldest and most vulnerable under this Minister?
As I have advised the House on many occasions, I am not able to comment on individual cases, first of all, without the permission of the person involved and, secondly, without notice from the member, who hides the personal issue behind another sort of question. I am, however, really happy to look at that issue, if the member wishes to approach me and give me any detail to enable me to identify the patient he says was thus treated.
Is the Minister aware of comments made by his ministry’s principal medical adviser that there is a steadily increasing demand on acute services and that health services have not changed sufficiently to cope; if so, what, if anything, is being done to deal with the increased demand?
Yes, I am aware of the comments made by the ministry’s principal medical adviser to that effect and, indeed, of the comments that followed in the couple of sentences immediately after, in which he pointed to ways forward to try to reduce pressure on emergency departments.
When was data on emergency department treatment times first collected across New Zealand, and why was it collected?
It was first collected in June 2000, 6 months after this Government came into office, and it was collected because we wanted to know how good our emergency departments were. The previous Government apparently did not want to know. An international comparison of emergency departments and waiting times between Australia, Canada, Britain, the United States, and New Zealand showed New Zealand emergency departments to be the best-performing of all five nations. I would like to thank staff in emergency departments; that is a splendid result.
How does it show that this Labour Government values and respects health professionals when the Government’s Wellington bureaucrats have decided to stop the supply of grated cheese to Wellington Hospital, so that surgeons can no longer have cheese on toast because it is considered too high in fat; and is it not the fact that the only thing on toast in this House is this Minister, question time after question time?
The member may not be aware that Wellington bureaucrats of any shape or description do not decide which New Zealanders eat cheese and which New Zealanders do not. They do not decide that; they do offer some advice on food classification, and on what foods might be eaten regularly and on what other foods might be eaten less regularly. But I think a more important point is that in this country, each day, 1,000 New Zealanders go through an emergency department doorway and are triaged in such a way that those who need treatment most are treated first. In particular, those who need immediate treatment are treated immediately—not after 4 days, 4 hours, or 4 minutes, but immediately. That is why emergency departments exist, and that is why they operate in that way.
Let me put it another way to that member, who cannot bear to hear anything resembling the truth. If a two-car accident happens and the people fetch up at the emergency department, other people will wait, even if they were there first. That is how triaging works, and that is how it has to work.
Would members please keep it down. It is very difficult to hear and concentrate on who wishes to speak.
Does the Minister really think he has his priorities right when the North Shore Hospital’s accident and emergency department is on the brink of collapse, it is failing to meet waiting-time standards, and it has patients stacked in the corridors and in ambulances, yet he has district health board managers focusing their energies on a plan to phase out full-fat milk from the hospital tearoom?
The member, like his colleague, seems to make light of something that I do not think we should make light of. I do not think we should make light of it. I just say to the member—although the Opposition may not wish to hear it—that the Waitemata District Health Board was the worst performing district health board in the last round, as far as emergency department waiting times were concerned; it was the worst-performing district health board in the country. I am advised that in recent weeks—in the last 2 or 3 weeks—as far as triage 1 patients are concerned, there was a 100 percent delivery on that target. One hundred percent of people who needed to be seen immediately were seen immediately—100 percent.
Why—with the Government being able to release whatever health priorities it wants this afternoon—are the Minister’s bureaucrats, who should be trusting and valuing our health professionals, deciding to restrict the size of the chocolate bars those people can have in their vending machines and deciding that they cannot have cheese on toast between operations, and why are the bureaucrats now prohibiting full-fat milk in hospital tearooms, when surely we should be relying on these highly intelligent health professionals to make those decisions for themselves and trusting and valuing their contribution to the New Zealand public health system?
Whatever food is sold or not sold in a hospital canteen is not done by virtue of some edict from the centre. The member is aware that this afternoon the health system in New Zealand is about to take another significant step forward, and he wants to rain on the parade. I invite him to turn up and see what a Government that is not lacking in ambition and is determined to have better health for New Zealanders is able to do, and compare it with the fact that after 8 years in Opposition, he has developed a five-point policy plan for health that has only four points in it.
I seek leave to table a fistful of reports of how New Zealanders are missing out on emergency department support—