Ambulances have been forced to bypass Werribee Mercy Hospital’s emergency department more often over the past year due to a spike in demand.
The recently released Victorian Health Services Report records the hospital was on bypass for 145 hours during the June quarter this year – up from 98 hours in the same period last year.
Bypass figures represent the number of hours emergency departments are closed to ambulances because wards are filled to capacity and the hospital cannot safely accommodate and treat more patients.
Urgent cases must still be accepted when a hospital is on bypass.
Werribee’s hospital took in patients from 1278 ambulances during the June quarter this year – more than 120 more cases than the 1153 ambulances dealt with in the June quarter last year.
Mercy Health chief executive of health services Linda Mellors attributed rising emergencies to the burgeoning population.
“Werribee Mercy Hospital is located in one of the fastest-growing population corridors in Australia and continues to experience high demand for emergency services,” she said.
Dr Mellors said a planned $85 million hospital redevelopment – to include six operating theatres and 64 new beds – would help lighten the load once it’s finished in 2018.
The health services report also showed that the hospital’s emergency department had surpassed state government benchmarks in treating category one and two patients within set timeframes, but it had treated only 73 per cent of category three patients within the prescribed 30 minutes.
The benchmark for this category is 75 per cent and includes patients presenting with moderately severe blood loss, persistent vomiting and dehydration.
“Patients who are assessed as category one and two need the most urgent care in the emergency department,” Dr Mellors said.
“This does impact on the time that other patients wait to be treated. No critically ill patient waits to be treated regardless of whether they arrive by an ambulance or any other means.
“All patients are triaged and treated according to how unwell they are,” she said.
“Werribee Mercy Hospital continues to implement and review strategies to improve waiting times for all categories.”
The hospital’s elective surgery list remained stable over the 12 months to June 30 this year, with 729 patients awaiting surgery and only 6.9 per 1000 scheduled surgeries postponed (down from 12 per 1000 to June 30, 2014).
With Laura Michell