The Tweed Hospital Emergency department.
The Tweed Hospital Emergency department.

Why Northern Rivers hospitals had dramatic drop in patients

Fewer sporting events, social functions and less travel thanks to the pandemic has been equated for a dramatic drop in patients attending Northern Rivers emergency departments for the second quarter in a row.

However the latest Bureau of Health Information report did show a spike in the most serious of hospital presentations despite the 12.7 per cent decrease in ED attendances across the Northern NSW Local Health District in the July to September quarter.

This compares with the same quarter last year, is down 6939 attendances to 47,593.

Our district's hospitals did have a jump in T1: Resuscitation presentations, the most urgent emergency category, up by 9.4 per cent or 22 presentations to 257.

The quarterly report also shows an improvement in ED performance, with more patients starting treatment on time, to 78.8 per cent, up 3.9 percentage points on last year.

The largest reductions in presentations was in the semi-urgent (T4) category, down by 15.4 per cent, or 3421 fewer presentations, to 18,856.

The non-urgent (T5) category was down by 19.5 per cent, or 922 fewer presentations, to 3800.

NNSWLHD chief executive Wayne Jones said this was due to a range of factors including "fewer sporting and social functions resulting in fewer minor injuries, fewer people travelling on roads, and fewer respiratory presentations associated with influenza as a result of better hygiene and distancing measures".

"Every time a new public health order is issued, or new cases are discovered, our health staff are at the front line implementing measures to make sure our health facilities remain COVID-free, and our communities are informed and prepared," Mr Jones said.

"From screening visitors, to operating COVID-clinics, supporting patients, and advising the community, our incredible health staff are carrying us through this difficult season, and continuing to provide compassionate and expert care among the many other shifting situations we've encountered this year."





  • Ballina District Hospital ED had 4264 presentations, down 217 or 4.8 per cent on the same quarter last year.

The percentage of patients who started their treatment on time improved by 5.7 percentage points up to 77.6 per cent and the median time to leave the ED improved by five minutes to one hour and 55 minutes.


  • Byron Central Hospital ED had 191 fewer presentations, a decrease of 3.7 per cent, with a total of 4907 presentations this quarter and 83.2 per cent of patients starting their treatment on time, which was above the state average.


  • Casino and District Memorial Hospital ED had a 26.9 per cent drop in presentations, down by 1012 to 2747 in total.

Of these, 81.1 per cent of patients started their treatment on time, a 19.8 percentage point increase from last year.


  • Lismore Base Hospital ED had 9531 presentations during the quarter, a 6.4 per cent decrease, or 650 fewer presentations, on the same quarter in 2019.

Arrivals by ambulance increased by 7.8 per cent, or 188, to a total of 2601.

During the quarter 69.2 per cent of patients started treatment on time, a two percentage point increase.


  • Murwillumbah District Hospital had a 14.9 per cent decrease in ED presentations (down by 705), with 4012 people attending the ED.

Of these, 90.1 per cent started treatment on time, a 2.7 percentage point improvement.


  • The Tweed Hospital had 11,352 ED attendances in the July to September quarter, a drop of 16.8 per cent, or 2298 presentations.

Median time to treatment remained stable or improved across all triage categories, with 84.1 per cent of patients starting treatment on time, a seven percentage point improvement.

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