INVERELL hospital's emergency department has received the worst rating in the New England North West for overall satisfaction, amid mounting pressure to address critical staffing shortages.
The Bureau of Health Information's (BHI) latest Emergency Department Patient Survey results show less than half the respondents rated the care they received highly in 2020-21.
Of the hundreds who filled out the survey, only 46 per cent said they felt their concerns were carefully listened to by ED health professionals, with results significantly lower than the state average in more than half of the survey categories.
It comes as Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall demands answers from Hunter New England Health District management on severe medical staff shortages at Inverell hospital.
Mr Marshall said he had received multiple reports from members of the community that the hospital's emergency department would be left without a doctor for up to 10 days after the external hire company failed to provide locum coverage.
He described the situation as "appalling" and said he felt sickened by the local health district's reliance on external agencies to fill vital positions in hospitals.
"To exacerbate this further, over the weekend I was informed there was no doctor, anaesthetist or obstetrician at Inverell Hospital, with all maternity patients being transferred by ambulance to Armidale," he said.
"I believe the ambulance service has also been undertaking at least two patient transfers a day to Armidale, for illnesses which should, and could be, treated in Inverell."
Mr Marshall said he has penned his concerns to HNEH's CEO and the Minister for Regional Health twice in the past two weeks, and continued to push for an "urgently needed" review into how doctors are sourced for rural and regional hospitals.
HNEH's executive director rural and regional health services Susan Heyman said management are aware of issues raised regarding Inverell hospital's emergency department, and are actively working to address these.
"Since the survey data was collected, HNELHD has implemented new measures to further improve patient experiences at Inverell hospital," she said.
"In February last year our senior leaders met with the community and the local member of parliament at a forum, where a number of issues were discussed including infrastructure, the ED waiting room and patient flow.
"The district created an action plan and implemented all the necessary changes, which we reported back to the community at the time."
Ms Heyman said communication and patient experience was one of the issues highlighted for improvement.
"In response, the district's cultural change team has provided ongoing mentoring and leadership to support staff in the ED to improve the patient experience," she said.
"This includes the upskilling of ED staff in the use of the new patient flow portal, which allows them to better manage patient care, frees up clinicians to treat patients and ensure timely transfers between other facilities."
She welcomed the results of the BHI survey, with almost nine in 10 patients across the health district rating their treating health professionals as 'very good' or 'good'.
"Pleasingly, more than eight in 10 patients also rated their overall care in our emergency departments as 'very good' or 'good'," she said.
HNEH did not respond to the Leader's questions regarding Mr Mashall's concerns, by deadline.
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