Doctors, nurses criticise Health Minister Andrew Little over 'misleading' emergency department remarks

Emergency doctors and nurses are having to defend how busy their hospitals are - calling comments made by the Health Minister "misleading".

Andrew Little said he hadn't seen any figures to support claims by top emergency doctor John Bonning that emergency departments were seeing record numbers of patients.

It's no secret our hospitals are under the pump and emergency departments are reporting record delays and patient numbers.

"We are very clear about what is happening in the departments across the country. They are reporting unprecedented pressure and volumes within their departments," said Dr Kate Allan, from the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine.

But Health Minister Andrew Little told The New Zealand Herald he hadn't seen any data to support that.

"It is concerning that point of view is taken," Dr Allan said.

The Minister also accused the college's Dr Bonning of making similar claims about 'record delays'.

"We've been showing people figures, and for Andrew Little to say there are no figures to back up what John Bonning is saying is sad," said Dr Sandy Richardson, from the College of Emergency Nurses.

"Having this undermining of health professionals is just not necessary... it's really disappointing that the Government fails to address the issue and acknowledge it," added Kerri Nuku, from the NZ Nurses Organisation.

An issue that nurses and doctors are on the frontline of.

"We are seeing nurses who are still at the end of a shift bursting into tears… this is something I never thought we would see on such a regular basis," said Dr Richardson.

Patients are being treated in hospital corridors and ambulance bays.

"There is more chaos because effectively the departments are overcrowded, so we have patients everywhere and it's really difficult to do a good job in that situation," Dr Allan said.

"We're going to have some deaths on our hands," Nuku said.

A stark reality if there aren't enough doctors and nurses.

Health Minister Andrew Little wasn't available for an interview but said in a statement that the NZ Herald asked him to respond to a claim about a record number of people turning up at emergency departments - which he replied he hadn't seen any figures showing that.

He said a major factor contributing to the pressure on hospitals is the state of primary health care - and that 300,000 Kiwis are not enrolled with a GP so end up in emergency departments.

The new health reform Bill has just passed its third reading in Parliament - so here's hoping that scrapping the DHB structure is the right move to save the sorry state of the health care system.