One broken wrist and a seven hour wait later: calls to look at staffing numbers and upgrades

Zoe Smith nursing her broken wrist.
Zoe Smith nursing her broken wrist.

If you asked anyone what they like spending their time on, the last answer you would expect is staying in a hospital waiting room.

A lengthy wait in ED is exactly what happened to Zoe Smith after a recent accident ended in a broken wrist.

"I texted my neighbour to see if they could bandage me up and get me to the hospital or surgery and that's when they said they had a doctor in the house," she said.

"I went up there and she examined my arm and said I needed to take it in for an x-ray. We then had a bit of a discussion around the table about where would be the best place to go and my neighbour said Cowra rather than going to Canowindra.

"Which I now regret, Canowindra would have probably seen me much quicker.

Zoe ended up waiting in the Cowra Hospital's Emergency Department waiting room for almost seven hours.

"I was triaged straight away and they did explain to me that it would be a very long wait," she said.

"If an Emergency Department nurse tells you it's going to be a long wait then it is going to be a long wait.

"I did sit down and wait for a long time, I was taken to x-ray very quickly, the security guard escorted me back up to the waiting room and then I just waited for more than six hours," she said.

Zoe said during her wait a number of other people came and went while she was waiting.

"They had two very sick babies in there, I saw ambulances come and go and knew there we much more urgent cases that needed their attention than my fractured wrist," she said.

"A broken limb is not particularly life-threatening but I reckon I would have gotten better treatment in sickbay at the local school.

"There wasn't a magazine available, there was a TV but it wasn't on and there was no food available, just a drinks machine," she said.

Zoe said while she doesn't blame the staff for her wait, she does blame the system.

"It's a lack of funding," she said.

"None of the doctors or nurses chose to be short-staffed and overworked and it wasn't the hospital's fault at all. It's a funding issue for sure because it wasn't working easily for anyone.

"It's something we need strong government support for, our public hospitals, they are there for all of us and I think currently they are in a terrible state.

"I wondered what would have happened if I had been able to tick the private health insurance box, I wonder if I would have been seen earlier.

"I wondered if it's necessary to have private health insurance to get treatment, that was one of my concerns as I sat there waiting. I thought it's my fault, have I done something wrong by not having private health insurance.

"More government funding is what we need, what the hospitals, patients, doctors and nurses need. It's what everybody needs," she said.

The Cowra Guardian put Zoe's experience to the Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) with Cowra Health Service Manager Pauline Rowston acknowledging the waiting room at Cowra Health Service was in need of an upgrade.

She also said the service had seen an increase in demand but was adequately staffed.

"This (upgrade) will be addressed in the planned $70.2 million dollar redevelopment of the Health Service that was announced in June this year," she said.

"The Cowra Health service saw a 3.4 per cent increase in the number of patients going through the Emergency Department during the first quarter of the year. The hospital has continued to see this trend year to date.

"Between mid-2012 and mid-2018 WNSWLHD has increased its workforce by an additional 278 full time equivalent staff - an increase of 5.8 per cent including 65 more doctors and 72 more nurses.

"The Cowra Health Service, including the emergency department, is staffed in accordance with the requirements contained within the Public Health System Nurses' and Midwives' (State) Award. In times of high activity patients are triaged and treated accordingly. During these busy periods longer wait times might be experienced.

"Daily meetings are held to ensure nursing levels are appropriate, safe and meet patient demand," she said.

The Bureau of Health Information's Healthcare Quarterly report shows that despite the increase in patient numbers, 79.5 per cent were treated within clinically recommended time frames.

With Cowra topping the list of Central West hospitals with 91.1 per cent of patients being seen to on time.

The Cowra Guardian also put Zoe's experience to the local member for Cootamundra, Steph Cooke, who said the NSW Nationals were pushing to increase staffing numbers in regional areas.

"The NSW Nationals announced during the March election a $2.8 billion drive to recruit medical staff and more than 3700 will be recruited into regional areas," she said.

"This means that in the Western NSW Local Health District, there will be an additional 271 nurses and midwives, along with 27 doctors, 37 allied health professionals and 53 hospital support staff.

"These additions come on the back of an additional 278 full-time equivalent staff in the Western NSW Local Health District recruited between mid-2012 and mid-2018," she said.

A new hospital for Cowra has been a top priority for Ms Cooke and she said consultation was ongoing in that space.

"Following recent discussions with Western NSW Local Health District, the LHD are looking to commence a second round of consultation in relation to the new Cowra Hospital before the end of the year, which is expected to continue for a period of approximately six months," she said.

"The LHD are looking to review and revise the Clinical Services Plan for Cowra which will involve public consultation with the community, including youth.

"This consultation will form the basis of planning for the new Cowra Hospital and will look at all aspects of health service delivery in Cowra," she said.

What's been your experience of wait times at Cowra Hospital? Have your say