13 March 2024

NSW hospitals have seen modest but promising progress in emergency department (ED) wait times, but Health Minister Ryan Park says there’s more room for improvement.

The latest Bureau of Health Information Healthcare Quarterly report shows the majority of patients (68.3 per cent) started their ED treatment on time and almost 80 per cent (79.9 per cent) of patients who arrived by ambulance had their care transferred to ED staff within 30 minutes, both measures reflecting small improvements compared with the same quarter in 2022.


Here in the Illawarra Shoalhaven, 66.4 per cent of patients started their treatment on time – an improvement of 7.1 percentage points from the previous December quarter. 


The NSW Government remains focused on creating pathways to care outside of hospitals. This includes:

  • Promoting the use of urgent care services for minor illness and injury, including Bulli Urgent Care Centre, which expanded to seven days a week from February 2024, and the Dapto Urgent Care Service, which opened in December 2023. 
  • Dedicated models of care for older patients, including the opening of Transitional Aged Care Program (TACP) beds at Figtree, and the Aged Care Outreach Service (ACOS), which has expanded to all Residential Aged Care Facilities in the Illawarra region.
  • Reducing length of stay for patients who can safely continue their care at home through initiatives such as Virtually enhanced Community Care, including the Virtual Hospital Ward.
  • Maximising operations within Emergency Short Stay Assessment Units and increasing timeliness of patient discharge, including on the weekends.


These initiatives are already starting to deliver promising results:

  • In less than three months, the Dapto Urgent Care Service treated over 2,500 patients outside the hospital.
  • The Aged Care Outreach Service (ACOS) team saw 1054 residents in the first 6 months (to 3 January 2024), with 80 per cent able to be cared for in their home.


Locally across the Illawarra Shoalhaven, the overwhelming majority of all planned surgeries were also performed on time (80.6 per cent), an 8.8 percentage point improvement compared with the same quarter in 2022. Furthermore, nearly all urgent surgeries (99.4 per cent) were performed on time.


The NSW Government’s Surgical Care Governance Taskforce has helped to drastically reduce the number of patients exceeding the clinically recommended timeframe for planned surgery by 87.5 per cent, from 17,070 in December 2022 to 2,133 in December 2023.


The NSW Government is working to improve access to care and reducing wait times, including through:

  • establishing an emergency department taskforce – to safely find innovative strategies to treat patients more effectively;
  • boosting staff – making 1,112 temporary nurses permanent and recruiting an additional 1,200 nurses and midwives;
  • boosting infrastructure – committed to delivering new equipment at Wollongong Hospital, a new hospital in Shellharbour and a new Community Health Facility in Warrawong;;
  • embracing Healthdirect and the single patient front door – connecting more patients to care options outside the hospital; and
  • rolling out 25 urgent care services across the state relieving pressure on our EDs.


Quotes attributable to Minister for Health Ryan Park:


“Everyone should be able to access quality health care when they need it, where they need it. Patients shouldn’t have to wait hours longer than necessary in our hospitals or emergency departments. Having people and their loved ones waiting around in our hospitals for lengthy periods of time is not good for them, our staff, or other patients.


“I want to make it very clear – we are far from mission accomplished. While this is a promising improvement, too many people are still waiting too long in our EDs.


“We are throwing everything in our ruck sack at improving access and reducing wait times in our hospitals.


“This includes boosting staff and infrastructure; but also rolling out urgent care and providing those alternate pathways to care, to treat people outside the hospital; and establishing an ED taskforce to drive improvements in wait times and access to care.


“When we reduce the proportion of people who can be treated outside of hospitals entering our EDs, our patients as a whole benefit.”


Quotes attributable to Member for Wollongong Paul Scully:


"This is a positive start and shows that some of the interventions that have already been made to make up for years of under-resourcing of the local health system are having a positive impact.


“I remain confident that the combination of improving staffing levels, investing in infrastructure and additional services will pay long-term dividends for patients and their families.”


Quotes attributable to Member for Shellharbour Anna Watson:


“The Dapto Urgent Care Centre is doing a fantastic job of taking pressure off emergency departments in Wollongong and Shellharbour.


“I thank everyone who has recently attended one of our wonderful Urgent Care Centre’s for minor illness and injury.


“They get world-class health care whilst freeing up our emergency departments for those that need it most.”


Quotes attributable to Member for Heathcote Maryanne Stuart:


“Services like the Bulli Urgent Care Clinic provide people with treatment pathways outside of the hospital.


“Urgent care services are relieving pressure on our local emergency departments.” 


Quotes attributable to Member for South Coast Liza Butler:


“I am proud to be part of a government that is focused on improving healthcare services in our local hospitals, especially in regional areas.


“I am pleased to see the measures the Minns Labor Government have implemented are starting to show signs of improving waiting times in our local hospitals, but we have a long way to go.


“As a member of the Select Committee on Remote, Rural and Regional Health, we are working hard to make sure everyone in our great state has access to proper and timely healthcare when they need it.”


Quotes attributable to Sarah Kaine MLC:


“After 12 years of Liberal-National neglect our healthcare system has been left overwhelmed and underfunded, which has been reflected in ED wait times and delays in planned surgery occurring.


“The promising improvements in ED wait times and planned surgery performance in the Illawarra Shoalhaven reflect this Government’s commitment to rebuilding our essential services.


“It is important to reflect on the impact that these improvements have on not only those needing care in our healthcare system, but also the experience for the over 1,600 people in the Kiama electorate who work incredibly hard in our hospitals.”