Emergency Department

If you are experiencing an emergency dial - 111

Timaru Hospital’s Emergency Department is an increasingly busy place. A significant proportion of these attendances are by people who could be seen and treated by a general practitioner (GP) or after-hours doctor. The result can be longer waiting times in some instances for some people, an often frustrating and anxious experience.

How do I know if my condition is serious?

When in doubt ring your GP to describe your symptoms and seek advice. Or call the 24-hour HealthLine 0800 611 116. You can also find out more about where to go when you aren't feeling well here.

Why do I have to wait?

The length of wait depends on how urgent your problem is: people with more serious problems have priority over people with less urgent conditions. You also may wait for other reasons, such as:

  • Patients who have arrived by ambulance being admitted to ED.
  • Treatment to be given.
  • X-rays to be taken and/or read by a radiologist.
  • Lab tests to be done and/or lab results to be available.
  • A specialist to be contacted.
  • Seeing how you respond to initial treatment.
  • Time to arrange a bed for your admission, if required.

It’s not possible to predict when the Emergency Department will be busy, but be assured that staff are working hard to ensure those requiring immediate or urgent attention are seen as quickly as possible and given the best care possible.

What happens when I arrive at the Emergency Department?

When you arrive at Timaru Hospital’s Emergency Department, a registered nurse will assess your illness or injury and then prioritise your condition to ensure you receive the right care at the right time. This triage system means that patients in most urgent need are given priority. In some cases the nurse may suggest that you see your GP or an after-hours doctor if you do not require emergency treatment.

After you have been assessed, you will be advised of your triage level and the likely length of time you may wait to receive a doctor’s attention.

What is "triage"?

“Triage” is the term used for the process of sorting people based on their need for immediate medical treatment compared to their likelihood of benefiting from such care.

What are "triage levels"?

The triage levels shown below explain the types of conditions and symptoms people may have, how urgently these need to be treated and the timeframes to be seen within. The timeframes are the national standards, and the Ministry of Health sets compliance targets of 100%, 80% and 75% respectively for triage levels 1, 2 and 3.

Triage 1: Resuscitation Required — seen immediately. People in this group are critically ill and require immediate attention. Most arrive at ED by ambulance. This group includes those whose heart has stopped beating, whose blood pressure has dropped to dangerously low levels, who may be barely breathing or have stopped breathing, who may have suffered a critical injury, or who may have overdosed and be unresponsive.

Triage 2: Emergencyseen within 10 minutes. People in this group are likely to be suffering a critical illness or very severe pain. For example, this group includes those with serious chest pain likely to be related to a heart attack, people with difficulty breathing, and those with severe injuries resulting from trauma.

Triage 3: Urgent — see within 30 minutes. People in this group include those suffering from severe illnesses, people with head injuries who are conscious, those with major bleeding from cuts, and people with major fractures, persistent vomiting or dehydration.

Triage 4: Semi-urgent — see within 1 hour. People in this group usually have less severe symptoms or injuries, although the condition may potentially be serious. Examples include those with minor bleeding, a foreign body in the eye, a head injury where the patient never lost consciousness, a sprained ankle, possible bone fractures, migraine or earache.

Triage 5: Non-urgent — see within 2 hours. People in this group usually have minor illnesses or symptoms that may have been present for a week or more, like rashes or minor aches and pains. This group also includes people with stable chronic conditions who are experiencing minor symptoms and are often best seen by their GP, who is familiar with their condition and health history.

Who are the FEDs?

FEDs are Friends of the Emergency Department and are part of a nationwide programme run by St John. They are volunteers whose aim is primarily to make your visit to the ED a bit less stressful, especially if you have to wait a certain amount of time to be seen.