| 15.07,18. 06:22 PM |
Liverpool Hospital delays keep ambulance patients waiting for up to three hours
Photo: Liverpool Hospital had 11 ambulances arrive in the space of one hour on Saturday night. (ABC News)
A group of sick patients was forced to wait on ambulance stretchers for up to three hours at one Sydney hospital overnight, preventing paramedics from leaving their side to attend other emergencies across the city.
The NSW Health Department has confirmed that for the second night in a row at Liverpool Hospital in the city's south west, up to seven patients had to wait between two to three hours to be admitted.
That's up to six times longer than the statewide 30-minute benchmark for assessing and admitting patients who arrive at hospital emergency departments.
Paramedics described the scene at Liverpool Hospital as a "real struggle".
System under pressure
Deputy Secretary of NSW Health, Susan Pearce, said it was a sign the health system was coming under pressure from the extra volume of sick people during the winter months.
But she emphasised it was the only hospital to experience such delays over the weekend.
"Certainly I can confirm that none of those delays exceeded three hours," said Ms Pearce who was awake and working with the hospital's chief executive to clear the backlog which lasted for several hours until around 1:30am Sunday morning.
"Every now and then as we experienced last night and the night before at Liverpool Hospital, you do see pressure, particularly when those arrivals happen in rapid succession.
"I know on Friday night … at Liverpool they had 11 ambulance arrivals at one stage in the space of an hour."
Ms Pearce said during the winter months emergency departments sometimes experienced these "pinch points", however, in this case the hospital had recovered quickly.
"It's not so much that there's not enough beds, it can simply be that people have all arrived all at the same time, either walked in the door or arrived by ambulance."
Ms Pearce said while there was an increase in cases of influenza and respiratory symptoms, which was common during the winter months, "sicker people" and those with a lot of complex health conditions were turning up at hospital emergency departments due to the aging population.
Winter peak yet to hit
The state has a target that 90 per cent of all ambulance patients are to be offloaded in 30 minutes and the state either met or was within that target on the majority of days over the past six weeks.
Under health protocols, the paramedic has to "hand over the transfer of care of that patient to emergency department staff and be offloaded from the ambulance stretcher" before the paramedic is allowed to leave the hospital to attend other emergencies.
Ms Pearce said the winter peak was yet to hit and the worst was yet to come.
"I expect that over the next six weeks we will see pressure from time to time," she said.
"We just ask that people bear with us as we work hard to do the best we can."