Patient suffering brain bleed waited hours in ED as new figures reveal some regions short 50 ED nurses

Overrun emergency departments are facing huge pressure to plug staffing holes, as a growing number of patients face six-hour delays in corridors and waiting rooms.

Te Whatu Ora data released to Newshub shows some regions are short 50 nurses in emergency departments alone.

Even the little things, like holding a cup of tea, appear difficult for Lynne Martin these days.

She's been through hell. First, it was repeated strokes, then burning head pain leading to a painful, hours-long ordeal in Waikato Hospital's Emergency Department. 

"I am angry about it, but I'm more angry at the fact the system is broken and it needs to be fixed," Martin said.

The Martins say they waited five-and-a-half hours at the emergency department. But Waikato Hospital contends Martin was examined within two hours of presenting.

When she was seen, ED staff uncovered a bleed on her brain affecting the optical nerve. 

She's lost all vision in her left eye, and some in her right. 

"I can't drive, I'm classed as legally blind, so I can't work. My whole life has been completely upturned," Martin said.

There's no evidence that the delay made Martin's condition worse but she was forced to wait in substantial pain.

She isn't alone. Patients nationwide tell Newshub they've waited hours in corridors, despite sometimes suffering from serious illnesses. 

New figures show the worrying reality in our hospitals. 

Te Whatu Ora emergency departments across Auckland are short 50 full-time emergency department nurses, 25 at Middleton ED alone, and in the Waikato, the shortfall is 15.

In the capital, 35 nurses are needed across Wellington and Hutt Hospitals, and 12 are needed at Christchurch's ED.

"This has been coming for a long time - decades - the presentations are predictable, with population growth and increasing co-morbidities of patients. It's not just a post-pandemic blip," Australasian College for Emergency Medicine president Dr John Bonning said. 

And treatment targets that were being hit seven years ago, now seem a distant memory.

"In 2015, between 90 and 95 percent of every person that went to an ED throughout New Zealand were seen, treated and either admitted discharged or transferred within six hours. And now it's all over the dartboard and some are lucky to even be seen within six hours," Dr Bonning said.

Instead those patients, just like Martin, are left to languish in corridors and waiting rooms.

"I just don't want this sort of thing to happen to anyone else again, that's the only thing. The message needs to get through thick and hard to the Minister," she said.

Health Minister Andrew Little insists he is listening, pointing to a 45 percent increase in the health budget, a $7 billion hospital rebuilding programme, and plans to train, hire and retain more health workers. 

In the meantime, the health system still appears to be in pretty poor health.