More than 18,000 people attend Geraldton hospital ED in six months, up 20 per cent from 2019 stats

Phoebe PinGeraldton Guardian
The emergency department at Geraldton Hospital.
Camera IconThe emergency department at Geraldton Hospital. Credit: Geoff Vivian/The Geraldton Guardian

Geraldton Health Campus’ emergency department is getting busier — with new data showing a 20 per cent jump in the past six months — fuelling concerns about its ability to meet demand in the near future.

Figures provided by the WA Country Health Service reveal the hospital’s ED had 18,407 presentations between December 1, 2020 and May 31, 2021 compared with 15,414 for the same six-month period in 2019.

A WACHS spokesperson said the increase was reflective of a trend seen Australia-wide and follows lower than normal hospital activity at the height of the pandemic last year.

“The staff at Geraldton Health Campus continue to provide exemplary care at what we know is a busy time and the community should be reassured that demand is closely monitored by health leaders to ensure any challenges are met,” they said.

The data comes after upgrades to the Geraldton Health Campus were delayed for a second time, causing some concern about whether the refurbished hospital would be equipped to meet demand by the time the project was complete. The overall redevelopment was due to be finished in 2022, but has now been pushed back to 2024. The revamped ED is now due to be operational in 2023.

The number of patients attending the ED for mental health reasons rose 5 per cent over the same period, which WACHS said was “consistent with the growing Mid West population”.

A spokesperson said WACHS did not consider this to be a large increase, with figures “consistent with the growing Mid West population.”

“That said, the organisation implores people to seek help early if they’re having trouble managing their mental health,” WACHS said.

There were 1228 elective surgeries performed at the hospital between December and May, down 14 per cent from the 1427 in the same six-month period in 2019.

The average wait time for elective surgeries jumped from 66 days to 77 days.

A WACHS spokesperson said the trend could be attributed in part to cyclone Seroja.

“While WACHS acknowledges this is not ideal, unstable power as a result of the cyclone meant non-emergency surgeries needed to be rescheduled to ensure patient safety,” they said.

Other performance indicators suggested the Geraldton hospital was doing better than its other regional and metropolitan counterparts, with St John WA figures revealing ambulances have been ramped for an average of 0.7 hours each week this fiscal year to date, up slightly from 0.4 hours last FYTD.

In comparison, Bunbury Regional Hospital recorded an average weekly ambulance ramping time of 8.3 hours this FYTD, up from 3.2 hours last FYTD.

Liberal member for the Agricultural region Steve Martin in Geraldton.
Camera IconLiberal member for the Agricultural region Steve Martin in Geraldton. Credit: Geoff Vivian/The Geraldton Guardian

Liberal MLC for the Agricultural Region Steve Martin said the delays to the hospital upgrade were unacceptable. “The Labor Party promised during the election campaign the upgrade would be finished by 2022, works are now not expected to be completed until 2024,” he said. “By this time, it’s likely that the demand for hospital services will have already outstripped the new upgrades.”

“Initially promised at the 2017 election by Labor, the delays we are seeing to the Geraldton hospital are proving yet again that the McGowan Government does not consider the healthcare of people in the Midwest Region a priority.”

Speaking to ABC Radio, Geraldton MLA Lara Dalton said factors contributing to the delays had been out of the State Government’s control.

“We've had the COVID-19 pandemic, a cyclone hit the Mid West region, and the overheated construction sector,” she said.

“Anyone around WA who’s trying to build a house at the moment would know there’s quite a few delays in just accessing materials and getting skilled workers.”

Mr Martin said he was worried hospital patients and residents in the Mid West would suffer if the State Government did not address WA’s “overheated” construction sector.

“How long will the victims of (cyclone) Seroja have to wait to put a roof over their heads if the State Government can’t find the skilled workers to fix a hospital?” he said.

“We need to put our State’s $5 billion surplus to good use and secure safe healthcare and housing across Western Australia and particularly in regional WA.”

Concept art of the emergency entry of Geraldton Health Campus.
Camera IconConcept art of the emergency entry of Geraldton Health Campus. Credit: WA Country Health Service,

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