Hospitals in the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District have significantly reduced the overdue planned surgery waiting list by almost 64 per cent, according to the latest Bureau of Health Information data. ISLHD executive director of clinical operations, Margaret Martin, said the Healthcare Quarterly report showed significant improvements across emergency department and planned surgery performance during July to September 2023. "Improving our planned surgery performance and ensuring patients are receiving timely access to care is a key priority for the district," Ms Martin said. During the July to September quarter, hospitals in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven performed 3,418 planned surgeries. Most (81.8 per cent) were performed on time, including virtually all (99.8 per cent) urgent planned surgeries. "Over the past year, we have also significantly reduced the number of patients who were waiting longer than clinically recommended for planned surgery, from 1,019 people at the end of September 2022, compared with 369 at the end of September 2023," Ms Martin said. She attributed the improvements to the dedication of staff and "their relentless efforts to improve performance in our hospitals." Ms Martin also said patients who felt their conditions had deteriorated while waiting for their surgery should contact their treating doctor who could review their condition and place them in a higher urgency category if appropriate. Figures showed record levels of demand on hospital emergency departments over a busy winter period. "There were 41,566 attendances to ISLHD emergency departments from July to September 2023, with a record number of patients requiring complex assessment and treatment,'' Ms Martin said. "During the quarter, there were 354 triage 1 (resuscitation) presentations and 5,722 triage 2 (emergency) presentations, both representing a 17.2 per cent increase on the same quarter last year and the highest number of patients in these triage categories since BHI began reporting in 2010. "We also saw a 9.9 per cent increase in the number of ambulance arrivals at the district's EDs compared to the same quarter last year, with 12,254 patients arriving by ambulance." Despite record levels of demand on emergency departments across the region, "we've seen some remarkable improvements in the time for transfer of care from ambulance to hospital staff, with 77.3 per cent of patients transferred in 30 minutes, an increase of 25.6 percentage points on the same quarter in 2022", Ms Martin said. "Further, the majority of patients (62.6 per cent) started their ED treatment on time - a 5.9 percentage points increase on the same quarter in 2022.'' Almost half (44.7 per cent) of all presentations to the region's emergency departments were for the least urgent triage categories, with 15,564 triage 4 (semi-urgent) and 2,780 triage 5 (non-urgent) presentations during the quarter. The ISLHD reminded people to support the health service and hospital workers by saving emergency departments and ambulances for saving lives. It said people with an illness or injury that was not serious or life-threatening should call Healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222, for a 24-hour telephone health advice. The district's hospitals also provided 27,552 admitted patient episodes of care, an increase of 15.4 per cent on the same quarter in 2022 and the highest quarter on record.