The father of a 5-month old girl is furious after waiting eight hours in Middlemore Hospital's emergency department to see a doctor - on two occasions.
Sarbjit Singh, of Flat Bush in Auckland, said his daughter Eitbar Sidhu was in serious discomfort and needed medical care when he took her to hospital.
His long wait is not an isolated case. Middlemore Hospital now has the worst record in the country for emergency department waiting times. It has previously been among the country's best performers, regularly hitting the target of 95 per cent of patients being admitted, discharged or transferred within six hours.
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Singh said his daughter Eitbar Sidhu began struggling with a persistent cough and infections at 10 weeks of age. He had been forced to go to the hospital twice in the past month when she became sick after his local GP clinic closed.
On the first visit, he took his daughter to Middlemore because of breathing difficulties. They arrived at the waiting room at 4.35pm and Eitbar was not seen by a doctor until about 12.30am.
"There were families who were just leaving after waiting five or six hours without seeing a doctor," Singh said.
"It is just not good enough."
On the second occasion, he sought a checkup for his daughter because of further breathing problems, vomiting and diarrhoea.
"She was getting worse and could not breathe properly."
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They arrived at the emergency department at 9.30pm, were checked by a nurse 30 minutes later, but were not seen by a doctor until 4.40am.
"That is a real shame. A real shame for the taxpayers' money," Singh said.
A spokeswoman for Counties Manukau DHB acknowledged that long waits could be frustrating. All cases were prioritised based on clinical need and the most urgent cases were seen first, she said.
"This is a good opportunity to remind our community that the emergency department should be reserved for life-threatening conditions and very serious illnesses."
Singh said he accepted his daughter's condition was not severe.
"But you shouldn't have to wait more than seven hours, it's just common sense," he said.
Singh said only one doctor appeared to be working at the time, but the DHB said this was incorrect. Five doctors were on duty each night, while one doctor was allocated to the waiting room.
Shorter stays in emergency departments were one of six national health targets under the previous National-led government. The Coalition Government is developing new targets, but it has retained the emergency department target for now.
The most recent report shows 83 per cent of patients were seen within six hours at Middlemore - its worst result since the target was established 10 years ago. That compares to 89.9 per cent for Auckland DHB and 92.4 per cent for Waitematā DHB.
The DHB said the latest result was caused by a rise in the number of patients who were presenting to the emergency department with acute and complex needs. High hospital occupancy also impeded the flow of patients from ED into wards, the spokeswoman said.
The DHB is under pressure from a fast-growing population and high rates of chronic health conditions. It is based in an area with high rates of deprivation, and half of its child patients live in poverty.
A series of initiatives are underway to improve waiting times, including Emergency Q, a digital service which allows patients to know what waiting times are likely to be and compares them to accident and medical clinics. An ED "Trigger Tool" has been established to identify when the department is in need of additional support.