Local News

Fewer emergency cases at Grafton and Maclean hospitals

In the weeks leading up to the coronavirus crisis, the valley’s hospitals prepared for an increase in demand.

On March 25 the Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSWLHD) put out a media release, stating that it was “free[ing] up our other clinicians, nurses, support staff and sites [so as] to be available to respond to COVID-19 cases as needed”.

Subsequently, Australia has done a pretty good job of ‘flattening the curve’.
On Friday April 19 there were various reports around the country pointing out that fewer people were seeking emergency hospital care due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

Come Monday morning on ABC’s Radio National, Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed that the national cabinet would review a ban on non-urgent elective surgery, due to a drop in new coronavirus cases across Australia.

With only eight cases detected in the valley and no new cases since March 29, the Independent sought information about how the valley’s two public hospitals were faring.

The Independent provided the above context to the NNSWLHD when it asked:

Have the emergency departments experienced falls in attendance as a result of the restrictions?
Can you provide figures?

In regard to non-urgent elective surgery being curtailed as of March 25, to “free up our other clinicians, nurses, support staff and sites to be available to respond to COVID-19 cases as needed”, has there been any demand in this context?

Have urgent and, where clinically required, semi-urgent elective surgeries taken place as a result of low COVID-19-related demand on staff?

Please provide figures if possible.

The NNSWLHD replied with the following statement from its chief executive, Wayne Jones.

“Both Grafton Base Hospital and Maclean District Hospital have seen decreases in emergency department attendances over the past four to six weeks.

“This decrease has been seen across the state.

“This decrease may relate to reduced sporting activities, working from home, hotels and clubs being closed, reduced road transport and improved hygiene practices.

“The Grafton Base Hospital COVID-19 and Respiratory Clinic has [sic] been operating since 23 March, receiving patients who may have otherwise presented to ED.

“As part of the district’s comprehensive COVID-19 plans, additional ICU capacity has been created which will assist in managing expected demand increases.

“To support this increased capacity, we have procured additional specialised equipment and personal protective equipment, as well as increased our staffing numbers and staff training.

“Grafton Base Hospital Surgical Services maintain a 24/7 service for Emergency Surgery.

“This has not been affected by COVID-19.

“The district is focused on ensuring that patients who require urgent (category A) elective surgery can be admitted for their surgery on time.
“Almost all those patient have now received the required care.

“Any patients who have their surgery classified as semi-urgent (Category B) can be re-assessed by their treating clinician if their condition deteriorates.
“Cases are selected on clinical grounds.”