Emergency departments busy despite late flu season

While the number of people presenting to emergency departments with influenza remains low, our emergency departments are still very busy.

NSW Health is reminding people that despite the late start to the flu season, winter is still one of the busiest times of the year for emergency departments.

There were 537 confirmed flu cases last week, well below the 9,017 notifications the same time last year, the latest NSW Health Influenza Surveillance Weekly Report shows.

Susan Pearce, Deputy Secretary System Purchasing and Performance NSW Health, said demand on hospital emergency departments continues to increase.

“While the number of people presenting to emergency departments with influenza remains low, our emergency departments are still very busy,” Ms Pearce said.

“The NSW Health system is managing this patient load very successfully but it’s important people understand that emergency departments must prioritise more urgent cases.

“There has been a steep jump in patients presenting with very urgent and critical illnesses, up by more than 11 per cent in June 2018 compared with the same time last year.”

The NSW Government is investing a record $22.9 billion in health in 2018-19, representing a $1.1 billion increase over the 2017-18 Budget.

An investment of $759 million for acute patient services will fund an additional 40,000 emergency department attendances in addition to 2.9 million already provided as well as 3,200 elective surgeries in addition to the 225,500 already provided.

Ms Pearce said in an emergency – such as when experiencing chest pains or problems breathing – people should call Triple Zero or go to their closest emergency department.

However, for less severe symptoms, the first port of call may be the local GP, medical centre or pharmacist.

There is also a 24-hour service available, HealthDirect, (1800 022 222), which is manned by health professionals who can provide advice on health concerns.

“Local Health Districts across NSW have prepared well for this year’s flu season, with plans in place for all our hospitals, including procedures for allocating additional resources during periods of high demand,” Ms Pearce said.

“Our staff are also promoting good hygiene practices amongst staff and visitors. About 145,000 doses of influenza vaccine have been provided for health district staff – 30 per cent more than in 2017.

“Right across NSW, our staff are continuing to work hard to ensure patients receive timely and appropriate care, despite increasing demand on local health services.”