NEARLY one in four people are abandoning Maitland's "shiny" new emergency department before, or without completing treatment.
More than 3300 people left the region's half-billion dollar emergency department (ED) last quarter without seeing a doctor, 24.9 per cent of all presentations - a higher percentage than anywhere else in the state.
Among them was 30-year-old David Scott, who lives with disabilities including neurofibromatosis, Autism Spectrum Disorder and ADHD.
On September 6 he was transported by ambulance to Maitland Hospital, where he waited nearly five hours without seeing a doctor.
He had been unable to urinate for three days, was in acute pain due to post-operative complications, and had been triaged category three, meaning he should have been seen by a doctor within 30 minutes.
He left with his parents, Tom and Cheryl Scott, just before midnight, and went to the Calvary Mater Hospital in Waratah the next day where a catheter was inserted to assist him. His family is asking for answers about "the ridiculous waiting times" at Maitland Hospital describing it as "a joke" for a new hospital.
"I just think it's appalling," Mr Scott said.
"A $450 million hospital with a star rating of minus one. We know a girl, an eight-year-old,who sat there for over eight hours with a leg busted open needing stitches before she saw a doctor."
In another case, 91-year-old Vinetta Hipwell of Tea Gardens was sent home with painkillers. Robyn Mount said her mother died four days later with a blood infection.
"The outcome may have been the same, we have no way of knowing," Mrs Mount said.
"She was 91 and she'd been through some battles, but because of the way they treated her she had three days or four days of severe pain, and they were right onto it as soon as we went to Lake Macquarie Private.
"At Maitland they didn't do a blood test, they didn't do a urine test, they did an x-ray - if they'd done more modern imaging, which I requested, they'd have found she had a severe blood infection in the shoulder, septicaemia. They reckoned she had a frozen shoulder.
"They told her to go and see her GP the next day, but she could barely walk. I can think of at least three other people off the top of my head who have had terrible experiences over there."
Port Stephens MP Kate Washington, who has taken both family's and many other families' concerns to the Minister for Health, Brad Hazard, and since been referred the Minister for Regional Health, Bronnie Taylor, said many Port Stephens residents were being sent by ambulance to the new Maitland Hospital where the situation was rapidly deteriorating.
"It is a shocking reality that one in four people are leaving the emergency department before they're even seen by a doctor," she said.
"Every day I'm hearing horror stories from people who've been let down at their time of need. Local nurses have been desperately crying out for help for months."
Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison said the government had failed to ensure the region had "a world class health system" to match their half-billion dollar investment.
"It is unacceptable that a quarter of patients choose to leave the emergency department before they get treated or when people have to wait almost 24 hours to be seen," she said.
"Our hospitals need more resources, our health staff need more support and the people of Maitland deserve better."
Hunter New England Health Executive Director, Greater Metropolitan Health Services, Karen Kelly blamed an increase in the number of people attending Maitland's emergency department "who were sicker, required more complex care and needed to stay longer on the combined impact of the peak of the flu season and the Omicron outbreak.
"We acknowledge there's work to do to improve our overall performance, along with the experience of patients in our care," she said.
Adding to that challenge, many staff had been furloughed due to winter illnesses, she said. Ms Kelly said the health district has funded a new transfer of care nursing position to work collaboratively with NSW Ambulance colleagues to get ambulances back on the road sooner.
She also pointed to a pause on elective surgeries since January 10, with a staged return since February, having an impact.
"To address these challenges, we've made several improvements, including opening additional treatment spaces, increasing virtual medical coverage to support other local hospitals, enhancing allied health resources to improve patient discharge processes, and transferring non-urgent elective surgeries to our private partners where appropriate.
"These changes are already having a positive impact on the flow of patients through the ED."
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