Excessive delays for patients in emergency departments are being consigned to history at the Waitemata District Health Board, chairman Lester Levy says.

On average across its two hospitals, the board is coming second-to-last nationally on the latest quarterly comparison under the Government's health target on shorter stays in emergency departments - but Dr Levy says it has begun to hit the target.

The target is that 95 per cent of patients will be admitted, discharged or transferred from the department within six hours - a measure of whole-hospital efficiency.

"On Monday, the performance at North Shore Hospital was 97 per cent and at Waitakere Hospital 98 per cent, with 98 per cent for the DHB overall," Dr Levy said.

The national comparison issued yesterday was for January to March - the third quarter of the financial year.

Dr Levy said: "With the partial opening of the new [emergency department] at North Shore Hospital in late March, performance for quarter four to date for the board is now at 92 per cent - a dramatic improvement compared to 61 per cent just under two years ago .. In this almost two-year period, patient presentations to the board's [emergency departments] have increased by a significant 23 per cent."

The low point came in winter 2007, when many patients had long, uncomfortable delays on trolleys in corridors, in the worst cases waiting for days to be admitted to a ward.

"This problem is now going to become just a historical issue for us," Dr Levy said yesterday.

He expected the two departments would routinely meet the target from October, when the new North Shore emergency department and the adjacent assessment and diagnostic unit are completed. But the organisation still had work to do on improving its service culture and refining its processes.

In a related development, Dr Levy named June 7 as the day when Waitakere Hospital's department will at last remain open around the clock, seven days a week, for all patients.

"This marks the completion of the commitment to delivering 24-hour emergency care at Waitakere Hospital for all residents in West Auckland," Dr Levy said.

Health Minister Tony Ryall said he had been assured Waitemata would build on the recent improvements on the target.

"We expect to see continued improvements at North Shore. We've put $50 million into the new department and we expect to see rapid benefits for the patients of Waitemata."


Waitemata District Health Board emergency department patients discharged, transferred or admitted to ward within six hours.

* 61 per cent - July-September 2009.

* 80 per cent - January-March 2011.

* 95 per cent - national target.