Across the country emergency departments (ED) are reporting that they are full.
This is a concern when we haven't even hit the cold and wet winter months and with an impending mass coronavirus vaccination campaign further reducing resources.
We shouldn't be surprised by full EDs as red flag warning signs have been obvious from 2017/2018.
The most obvious red flag is increasing waiting times in emergency departments. The table below shows these have been increasing in nearly every DHB year on year.
One issue is that health targets such as ED waiting times were removed with the current government and my observation is that what isn't measured generally underperforms.
Keeping people from ED are what primary care and general practice are good at but long delayed funding diminishes the best that primary care can offer.
Over the past week emergency medicine specialists have said they have severe shortages. This talks to workforce development over many years that has not kept pace with population needs.
DHBs have further responsibility in their planning around such activities as chronic pain clinics. Many people are telling us that a frequent presentation to ED is for pain management.
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One can see how resourcing for a chronic pain clinic could also decompress ED. I choose pain clinics as a resourcing example because my observation is that they are severely underfunded.
The following graphic shows the average wait time last year for Northland DHB pain clinic was 10 months which is simply too long.
The DHB will be the first to agree with me on this matter and so our challenge is how do we resource DHBs appropriately for this work and how do we find the workforce to undertake it.
I believe solutions include resourcing primary care appropriately, harmonising after hours care across the country, accelerated workforce development of emergency medicine specialist, and front ending clinics such as pain clinics that will reduce presentations to ED.
• Dr Shane Reti is deputy leader of the National Party and a list MP based in Whangārei.