Deaths From Shortage of Hospital Beds Comparable to Road Deaths

The New Zealand health service continues to operate at breaking point with the number of people dying due to bed shortages being equal to the numbers killed on New Zealand’s roads every year.

Source NZ Herald, 8 Sept 2008

The ideal occupancy of inpatient wards is 85 per cent but many New Zealand hospitals run at more than 90 per cent, especially in winter. Waikato Hospital reached 109 per cent last Monday. The college says the core problem is lack of beds and a 15 per cent increase is needed in Australia and New Zealand.

In the Auckland region, a 15 per cent increase would add 315 beds to the present stock of around 2100.

New Zealand’s public hospital beds have declined from 2.48 per 1000 people in 1988 to 1.56 in 2006 – largely through reduced lengths of stay and increased efficiencies like day surgery.

When Auckland City Hospital opened in 2003, amalgamating four hospitals, doctors criticised the 7 per cent reduction in beds. At around 1000 , it is still slightly below the 1062 before amalgamation.

The Waitemata District Health Board will have added 68 beds by the end of this month and plans 300 more by 2013.

Overcrowded emergency departments lead to worse outcomes because of factors like delays in starting antibiotics for pneumonia, delayed heart-attack care and patients simply being overlooked because they are on a trolley in a corridor. Auckland City Hospital no longer permits patients to wait in ED corridors because of this risk.

Little seems to be being done to alleviate the many problems the health service suffers from , even though this is an election year and Labour votes are crucial if they are to remain in power.

On Friday of last week a press report cited difficulties in hiring and retaining nurses for a cardiothoracic and vascular intensive care unit and loss of “surgeon confidence” (because of problems with a clinical computer system and sterilisation of surgical instruments) causing a 2o decrease in cardiac surgery in Auckland. Bypass operations at Auckland City Hospital are down from 641 five years ago to 454 in the last financial year.

New Zealand Behind the Developed World

Far from having a centre of cardiac excellence, New Zealand now has a low rate of state-funded bypass and valve replacement surgery by comparison with other developed countries, and New Zealanders’ risk of dying with diagnosed cardio-vascular disease is now 35 per cent greater than Australians’ risk.

Source: NZ Herald Fri Sept 5, 2008

The following comments appeared in the Herald’s “Your Views”

“This government has run down the health system so badly. My cardiologist told me the wait was 3 months for my semi-urgent surgery. Labour then came into office and 2 years later I got the call!

This country needs more medical staff – pay higher rates so they stay here in the first place. Operating theatres need to be working around the clock – 24 hours per day.
There needs to be less paper pushing in the health system and more operations performed. Quite simple really – why is it so hard to do?

The fact some ill patients have to go to Australia to be treated is not only more expensive, but an appalling concept.

This Labour government has no respect for the New Zealand people. Helen Clark would rather see more taxpayers money funding government television ads and her election campaigns (yes – that’s her latest proposal!) than assisting the health of New Zealanders. She is a disgrace.”

..I’ve seen time and time again my patients die while waiting as an inpatient in a peripheral hospital on a urgent waiting list for either bypass or valve replacement. I’m sure the CCU and ICU staffs are doing a terrific job with limited resources.
But I’ve lost hope with this labour govt and the health system. Some comments are quite right, if you’re unlucky enough to have a cardiac condition Australia is definitely a better place to get treatment than in NZ. On the bright side I’m working in Aussie now, hoping the next govt (National) will do better than the current one.”

“Auckland is not the only area with problems-I am in Tauranga and last year had an (urgent) triple bypass-when my condition worsened, Tauranga hospitals response? It can be dealt with by “tablet therapy” (whatever that is)-my solution-I paid for it to be done in Auckland (and the result was fantastic)-frankly give me Auckland over Tauranga any day

“The CVICU is very short staffed which is having a significant impact on heart surgery.but so is the rest of ACH! The usual scenario is when heart surgery is cancelled for reasons other than short staffing in the ICU, the ICU staff are then redeployed around the hospital because The rest of the hospital is staffing critical! Than means the ICU staff get a double wammy.they work their backsides off, many doing extra shifts make what little heart surgery that does happen actually happen, then when there is a slow down, they are sent to other wards to work! This is one of the primary reasons the nurses leave but yet it still goes on!