Rotorua Daily Post health and business reporter

Emergency waiting time worst at Lakes District Health Board

Aerial view of Rotorua Hospital. Photo / Ben Fraser
Aerial view of Rotorua Hospital. Photo / Ben Fraser

Lakes District Health Board is the worst performing region in New Zealand in three out of six key health targets, according to new figures.

The quarterly health targets released by the Ministry of Health showed that for the period January to March 2016 Lakes achieved only two of the ministry targets, exceeding the goal for the number of 8-month-olds immunised on time, and improved access to elective surgery.

It ranked bottom of the country when it came to waiting times in the emergency department, getting help for quitting smoking and waiting times for getting a first cancer treatment.

People are getting ... quality treatment, however for some it is not always timely and we need to improve services for this group of people with cancer.
Midland Cancer Network manager Jan Smith

In the sixth target - more heart and diabetes checks - it was second from the bottom along with one other region.

The three bottom of the table rankings are the worst result for Lakes in the last year.

The health board's acting chief executive Nick Saville-Wood described several of the results as "disappointing".

He said the result in the faster cancer treatment target was "unacceptable", with the result worse than in the previous quarter.

He said Midland Cancer Network staff were working urgently with a range of Lakes staff, had identified opportunities to improve performance and were working to deliver those improvements.

This work included reviewing the record of patients who did not achieve the faster cancer treatment target.

"Our staff are committed to reversing our position on this health target table to demonstrate that Lakes patients receive services in a timely manner that is equal to or better than elsewhere in the country."

Midland Cancer Network manager Jan Smith said it was important for people not to be frightened by the statistics.

"People are getting treatment and they are getting quality treatment, however for some it is not always timely and we need to improve services for this group of people with cancer."

She said if a patient was concerned then they should contact their GP, consultant or nurse co-ordinating care.

The cancer health target has two measures. The 62-day target covered the period from a triaged GP referral with a high suspicion of cancer and there was a need to be seen within two weeks for a specialist clinic appointment, to the first treatment.

The second measure is the 31-day indicator which covers the time for patients to receive their first treatment (or other management) from date of decision to treat.

All other cancer patients are included in the 31-day indicator including those whose cancer had been diagnosed via a specialist clinic, a finding when treated for another condition, privately, or through screening, as well as those who presented acutely.

In that area Lakes was one of the highest achievers, Ms Smith said.

"The majority are getting timely treatment on the 31 day pathway," she said.

Mr Saville-Wood said the board was also disappointed with its performance in the shorter stays in emergency department target - which required 95 per cent of patients to be admitted, discharged or transferred from an emergency department within six hours.

To help reach its target the board had engaged health consultancy the Francis Group.

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