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More Money Needed For Emergency Care -- Doctor

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
More Money Needed For Emergency Care -- Doctor

Wellington, Jan 23 NZPA - Emergency medicine specialists from public hospitals say funding is needed for better care of patients who are sick and injured but who may not be in a life-threatening situation.

"Overcrowding of emergency department is caused by blockages and bed shortages further down the line," said the chairman of the New Zealand faculty of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, Dr John Bonning.

He rejected arguments that problems were being caused by people using the casualty departments instead of going to a general practitioner (GP).

"We have statistics that show that around 10 percent of patients we see could be seen in a primary care situation," Dr Bonning said.

"However, these people represent only 2 percent of our workload and resource. This is clearly not stretching our emergency departments.

"The implication that hospital emergency departments are being stretched by patients who should be seen by their primary care practitioners is false," he said.

District health boards (DHB) have pleaded with people to stay away from hospital emergency departments, and claimed that there had been a summer surge of cases which should have been seen by a general practitioner.

The boards blamed patients who wanted to save on doctors' bills over the holidays, and said Waitemata DHB experienced a 25 percent rise in patient numbers in December -- compared with the same period last year -- while Auckland DHB had an increase of 15 percent.

But Dr Bonning said today that trying to divert patients away from emergency departments patients was simply not working.

A significant increase of ill and injured patients over the holiday season occurred in nearly all NZ hospitals, but most of these cases were not minor problems -- the patients who did require hospital treatment or admission.

Dr Bonning called for an improved primary care strategy with better after-hours care at an affordable cost, reinforcing peoples' relationships with their GPs, and better chronic illness management.

And he said that in better-resourced emergency departments nurse specialists could help to stream and treat those patients with relatively minor problems.

"People are generally making the right decision on when to attend hospital emergency departments and we should support this," Dr Bonning said.

Health Minister Tony Ryall has said that low cost-clinics are already in the pipeline in some areas, with a network of 10 low-cost after-hours clinics planned for the Auckland area by July.

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