There was major congestion at joint emergency departments in the course of the year under review. Congestion became particularly heavy in the second half of the year. The Uusimaa Medical Helpline, 116117, also clogged up towards the end of the year.
In 2021, we cared for about 386,000 patients at our joint emergency departments, an increase of 6% on the previous year. Although the number of visits increased, their number was nevertheless 11% less than in the time before the coronavirus pandemic.
Longer waiting times for further treatment
Waiting times for patients referred to further treatment at the joint emergency departments became significantly longer in 2021. For instance, nearly half (46%) of the patients waiting for a bed for further treatment at joint emergency departments in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area spent more than 8 hours waiting at a joint emergency department. Towards the end of the year, the waiting times grew even longer, and by the end of 2021 53% of patients had to wait for more than 8 hours for further treatment.
This was substantially more than in 2019 and 2020, at which time only one in four patients waiting for a transfer to an inpatient ward had to wait for more than 8 hours.
We were obliged to close down numerous ward beds in both specialist medical care and primary health care, because nursing staff members also came down with the coronavirus. This had a direct impact on access to further treatment by patients coming to a joint emergency department.
Waiting times for patients discharged from joint emergency departments remained the same
Of the patients discharged from joint emergency departments, 64% spent less than 4 hours on site. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, in 2019, the figure for patients spending less than 4 hours at a joint emergency department was 53%.
Medical Helpline clogged
The Uusimaa Medical Helpline, 116117, clogged up towards the end of the year. Callers had to wait longer than normal for a callback. Phone calls about coronavirus-related matters for which the Medical Helpline is not responsible, such as inquiries about COVID test results, contributed to the congestion.