Just over half the people going to Geraldton Health Campus emergency department for serious cases are being treated within the recommended amount of time, new data reveals. Analysis from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has laid bare a host of gaps in the operation of Geraldton’s only public hospital, with emergency department presentations at a record high while staffing levels are critically low. In 2022-23, there were 36,212 presentations in total to Geraldton’s ED — the highest figure recorded for the hospital since 2012-13, and a 28 per cent jump from 2021-22. Staffing issues are plaguing the healthcare sector, with the 2023 Your Voice in Health Poll released in June revealing the main concern for workers was understaffing. Just 55 per cent of patients presenting to Geraldton Health Campus’ ED for emergency incidents were being treated in the recommended amount of time of 10 minutes in 2022-23. The AIHW data reveals 53 per cent of urgent patients were being seen within the recommended window of 30 minutes. In comparison with peer data — collated from “peer hospitals” of a similar scale and operation — those similar hospitals were seeing 74 per cent of patients in the recommended amount of time, indicating Geraldton was falling well short. Once patients are admitted, they spend an average of two hours and 42 minutes in the emergency department In 2014-2015, the average amount of time a patient spent in the ED was one hour and 55 minutes. Non-emergency stays increased from 6007 in 2011-12 to 7464 in 2021-22. Acute non-emergency stays rose from 872 to 1251. A spokesperson for WA Country Health Service said nearly 43 per cent of total ED presentations at Geraldton Health Campus were category four and five, meaning the injury or illness wasn’t life-threatening and did not require emergency treatment. The hospital has expanded emergency telehealth programs and ED avoidance programs to help care for people with chronic conditions to minimise pressure on the department and prevent avoidable presentations. “We’ve also established a rapid access medical clinic for specialist review of people who may be at risk of deterioration, and implemented revised models of care with an extended on-site presence of subspecialty teams and ED specialist doctors,” the spokesperson said. Further reinforcing the fact patients are staying longer in the hospital, figures reveal the percentage of patients who leave emergency within four hours of arrival for urgent cases fell from 80 per cent in 2011-12 to 64 per cent in 2021-22. The number of non-urgent elective surgeries decreased significantly since 2011-12, when 1485 were performed at the hospital, to just 755 in 2021-22. Shadow regional health minister Martin Aldridge said: “Data shows presentations at Geraldton hospital have grown dramatically — from around 29,000 presentations in 2017-18, to more than 36,000 presentations last year. “Geraldton hospital is the busiest regional hospital north of Perth, and it’s time for the Labor Government to deliver their promised redevelopment and ensure Mid West residents have a modern, quality healthcare service that meets their needs now and into the future.” The data revealed WA emergency departments were the slowest in the nation for the time it took to see patients. Australian Nursing Federation State secretary Janet Reah said the data indicated WA was feeling the effects of worldwide shortages in nurses and midwives. “Patients are simply not receiving the timely care they need and deserve,” she said. “This only happens because WA is severely lacking the nurses, midwives and other essential medical staff needed to triage and treat the increased patient influx.” Ms Reah suggested an incentive-driven recruitment program and an education drive.