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Today Tonight -

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(generated from captions) Since making an election promise

the running of hospitals he would take over in our health system, if the States can't fix the problems for Kevin Rudd to take action. we have waited and waited Well, today he has. the real story is being played out But the real waiting game and around the nation. in emergency departments shows our major hospitals in crisis. Our undercover investigation too few nurses. Not enough beds, not enough doctors, is stretched to breaking point. The system that are paying with their health, And it's the patients even their lives. people are dying every day There is no doubt that

in this country. because of hospital overcrowding

should be a lot better than this. A basic thing like health about wait times. Something needs to be done

for beds is just unacceptable. To see a third of patients waiting patients are being held to ransom. Across the State, wait for treatment. The clock ticks as the sick The waiting game is not a game. it's deadly serious. When it comes to your health,

(MONITOR FLATLINES) Batterson fighting for her life. A phone camera records Georgina Ah, ugh, oh...aah! in a car accident She was critically injured outside Kempsey at about 5:30pm.

to the local hospital shortly after. Paramedics got her waiting for emergency surgery. Why? But at midnight she was still Our beds were full. in her home State. A dying lady denied healthcare nearby Hunter Hospital in Newcastle. Frantically, trauma doctors called Denied. in Sydney - denied. They called numerous hospitals the clock of life was counting down. All the while,

New South Wales in the ICU units. They didn't have any beds in in New South Wales. They had nowhere to put me and there was no beds for me. It was a code red, I believe, Georgina is alive today from Kempsey Hospital because the team health system. bypassed the New South Wales and flew to Queensland, Instead, they crossed the border the only place that could take her. country or something, isn't it? It is like we are a Third-World

It shouldn't be like that. New South Wales Health is like that. But the facts are that Even if you're at risk of dying, there's a 30% chance you won't be treated within acceptable time frames at New South Wales emergency departments. The New South Wales health system is bureaucratic and is inefficient. The Australian National University's Professor Drew Richardson says a shortage of in-patient beds is clogging up emergency waiting rooms.

79 patients we found in 25 hospitals were waiting for a bed

and had been in the emergency department more than 24 hours. Very, very frustrating. You kind of think twice about, you know,

whether you actually have to go in and can you make it through until Monday. Some of Sydney's biggest hospital waiting rooms lived up to their names. At St Vincent's, Nicki waited for just under three hours

but it gets worse. I jumped off a set of stairs and sprained my ankle. There was a tendon poking out, There was a pretty decent hole in his leg, near his ankle. It's pretty unpleasant. For that, this man did serious time. When we met, he'd been at the hospital for five hours. It's pretty annoying waiting but who can you blame? The people causing the problems aren't here. The Federal Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, is in Canberra.

Today, she and the Prime Minister acknowledged the shambolic state of healthcare by taking the first steps toward a federally funded health system. Starting today, the Australian Government will build a new Australian health and hospitals network to deliver... Nine months late, the announcement has been criticised as an election stunt as real progress is unlikely until after State and Federal elections. On the ground, action is needed now.

Six hours. So you've been waiting six hours? Ruth presented at Canberra Hospital after hitting her head at work. And it should not be happening in Australia for God's sake. Australia, the lucky country - hello! Nationally, Professor Richardson's research found 1 in 5 emergency departments in Australia has a patient waiting more than 24 hours.

And, even more alarmingly, 1,500 people are dying every year because they've been left to linger in waiting rooms for too long. It is an indictment of our system that over 1,500 people are dying annually as a result of hospital overcrowding. New South Wales is responsible for a large proportion of these deaths but try telling New South Wales Minister for Health, Carmel Tebbutt. We are doing better than any other State or Territory

with regards to timeliness of care. The New South Wales public health system is well and truly in the lower half of the developed world. 76% of patients are admitted within the benchmark time. Which means 24% of patients in New South Wales aren't seen on time. Yesterday I was here for six hours. Really? Yeah. Yesterday. What were you here for yesterday? Um, my knee.

At Mona Vale, one man decides he'd rather be in pain than wait in hospital. It's going to be at least another two hours, I'd say. So I will definitely head off now. Which hospitals in NSW performed the poorest? Ah, I am not going to tell you that. They only respond to my survey because they're guaranteed anonymity. The public have a right to know if their hospital isn't performing

but when I narrowed in on the hospital the professor works from, it became apparent just how political pressure works to hide the truth.

Listen for the voice of Canberra Hospital's spin doctor Ross Buchanan. Yeah, it is very important that this interview goes ahead on the proviso that we do not talk about ACT at all. Um...

But I am speaking to an ANU independent researcher who has the freedom to speak about whatever he likes. I'm here to talk about I am very happy to talk about New South Wales. When independent researchers feel the heat from their masters, is it any wonder the public is cynical and angry?

To the Health Minister, the people responsible - what would your message be?

Pull your bloody finger out. And if you have a story about a hospital you'd like us to follow up, drop us a line via the website: