Health Minister Andrew Little 'doing lots' as new figures reveal one in four waiting over six hours to be treated at ED

New figures reveal nearly one in four people who show up to our emergency departments are having to wait longer than six hours to be treated. 

The latest in a string of horror stories about our emergency departments is the death of four-year-old Sebby Chua. The happy, cheeky boy, was all of a sudden gone after not being correctly diagnosed at an emergency department.

Asked if there is a crisis in New Zealand's emergency departments, Health Minister Andrew Little said they are "under severe pressure" and "have been for a while". 

It's getting worse. When Labour was elected, less than one in 10 patients waited longer than six hours to be seen at an emergency department. Now, nearly one in four wait longer than six hours. 

In MidCentral and Capital and Coast, the wait times are the worst. About 45 percent of patients wait longer than six hours.

The Health Minister is pointing his problem finger at the past as his Government celebrates five years in power. 

"Total health system that employs about 240,000 people, a public health system employing about 80,000 people," Little said. "That doesn't turn around quickly when you have had longstanding, decade after decade underinvestment and under-resourcing."

Dr Sandy Richardson, the former chair of the College of Emergency Nurses, said the situation is now dangerous.

"If we don't have sufficient staff, if we don't have staff who are trained to be working in the areas that they are placed, then people's lives are being placed at risk," she said.

She has a message for Little. 

"You can do something to change it and if you don't, then the responsibility is yours."

Little said: "This is a big beast and it's a big ship to turn around but we are turning it around."

But National said he's running out of time. 

"The bottom line is he's not achieving outcomes, he's not getting the outcomes that he desperately needs to achieve. They're distracted by an internal centralisation focused on building a massive health bureaucracy," said National leader Christopher Luxon. 

Little said: "We are doing lots of things and it is my task every day to be onto making sure that what we are doing is the right thing to do".

"I am not stopping now."

There are just too many things - whatever they may be - left to do.