Canberra’s emergency departments (EDs) continue to languish behind those across the country, with ACT patients now waiting more than double the national average.
A person presenting for emergency care at a Territory ED waits 47 minutes.
That’s compared to the national median of 20 minutes during the 2021-22 financial year, according to the Australian Institute of Health Welfare (AIHW).
Over the border in NSW, the wait time for emergency care is 14 minutes.
ACT ED wait times continue to remain long with data showing little to no improvement over the last five years.
That’s despite a decline in the overall number of patients who attended emergency departments for treatment.
In the ACT, 48 per cent of ED patients were seen on time, compared with a national average of 67 per cent.
Around the country, Western Australia had the second longest wait time of 40 minutes, followed by Tasmania (31 minutes) and the Northern Territory (29 minutes).
In other states, patients in Queensland waited an average of 18 minutes, Victoria (22 minutes) and South Australia (26 minutes).
These figures are based on the time within which 50 per cent of patients are seen. When this is extended to 90 per cent of patients, the Territory’s performance declines even further.
Compared with a national average of 117 minutes, the wait time in the ACT for 90 per cent of patients was 203 minutes. That’s up from 181 minutes the previous year.
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith was asked in the ACT Legislative Assembly last week about the long ED wait times.
She said it was not accurate to make comparisons across jurisdictions.
“Obviously, it is always upsetting for people when they have to wait in the emergency department for longer than is ideal,” she told the Assembly.
“But I also know that most Canberrans recognise that our hospital has one of the busiest emergency departments in the country. In comparison with its peer hospitals, these waits are on a par with some of those peer hospitals that are also very busy hospitals.”
She said the government was continuing to invest and make model-of-care changes (including having nurse practitioners in EDs).
But Opposition spokesperson for health Leanne Castley said these figures were “simply unacceptable” particularly given this was the fifth year in a row the Territory had been the worst performer.
“Each year the Labor-Greens government tells Canberrans they are implementing new models and reviewing their practices, yet they continue to languish at the bottom of the list for ED performance in the country,” Ms Castley said.
She accused the government of systemic underfunding and underinvestment in health.