New figures released in parliament show Peel Health Campus has reduced its medical staff and are nine nurses short in the emergency department, while more than a third of emergency patients are not treated in under four hours.
Under questioning from Dawesville MP Zak Kirkup, Health Minister Roger Cook revealed the number of doctors fell from 125 in 2016 to 109 in June, 2017, a 12.8 per cent drop in hospital medical staff.
Mr Cook also revealed 15 nurses had resigned from Peel Health Campus since January, with 9.4 full time registered nurse positions still vacant in the emergency department.
At the same time, there has been a drop in the percentage of emergency patients treated in under four hours.
So I call upon the state government: get it right in this state budget, make sure the Peel Health Campus gets increased funding...Dawesville MP Zak Kirkup
More than a third of patients were not treated in accordance with the government’s four-hour rule, which requires those attending emergency wards to be treated in less than four hours.
Between January and June this year only 65.7 per cent of emergency patients were treated in accordance to the four-hour rule, leaving 7224 patients waiting longer than four hours for treatment and discharge.
The rule, which was implemented at the Peel Health Campus in May 2010, aims to set a standard for the time taken to treat emergency patients.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s MyHospitals website, Peel Health Campus discharged 82 per cent of its emergency patients in under four hours in 2011-12 and 71 per cent in 2015-16.
Peel Health Campus chief executive Margaret Sturdy said the hospital was funded by the state government to care for public patients within Peel’s scope of clinical services delineation.
“The hospital is staffed according to activity and acuity,” she said.
“Although we have some nursing vacancy, rostered shifts are fully allocated through a range of actions, including utilising our part-time and casual staff pool.
“We also have access to nursing agencies to fill any roster shortfalls.”
Dr Sturdy said the Western Australian Emergency Access targets, which include the four hour rule, had been a focus of attention at the hospital for a number of years.
“PHC is working cooperatively and collaboratively with South Metropolitan Health Service to improve performance,” she said.
Dawesville MP Zak Kirkup, whose community is serviced by the hospital, said it was time for the government to increase resources to the Peel Health Campus and said the blow-out in the number of people not treated in accordance with the four hour rule was “significant and concerning”.
“There’s quite clearly a correlation here between a reduction in medical staff and those who can treat patients at Peel Health Campus and the time by which they are dealt with or discharged under the four-hour rule,” he said.
“People go to the Peel Health Campus expecting to be treated and what we’re seeing here is there is a continual increase in people who aren’t being treated according to the policy settings of what the health department would like to see happen when a patient presents themselves at hospital.”
Mr Kirkup said the figures released by the health minister in parliament tallied with reports he had been receiving from staff and patients and admitted the hospital’s resourcing levels were set by the former government.
“You’re right, there may have been some issues under the previous government but now there’s an opportunity for us to get the policy settings right, to get more doctors into Peel Health Campus,” he said.
“So I call upon the state government: get it right in this state budget, make sure the Peel Health Campus gets increased funding, and we can finally increase medical staff there to treat not only the population as it stands but also the projected population growth.”
Mr Cook did not comment about resourcing at Peel Health Campus or the hospital’s efforts to treat and discharge emergency patients in under four hours.