Hospital under pressure

Werribee Mercy Hospital. Photo by Damjan Janevski. 209276_11

By Alesha Capone

Werribee Mercy Hospital does not have the capacity or infrastructure to manage the rapidly increasing demand for its services, according to a top official.

Mercy Health Group chief executive Stephen Cornelissen has also called for the hospital to be redeveloped to expand its capacity and the services it can offer.

It comes as latest Victorian Agency for Health Information (VAHI) data revealed the median waiting time for patients at Werribee Mercy Hospital’s emergency department (ED) was the longest in the state between July and September this year, at 31 minutes.

Ninety per cent of patients at Werribee Mercy were seen by a nurse or doctor within 158 minutes, compared to 176 minutes a year earlier.

Adjunct Professor Cornelissen said the Werribee Mercy “faces significant challenges that contribute to recording ED waiting times that are longer than any other Victorian public hospital”.

“Werribee Mercy Hospital does not have the capacity nor the infrastructure to manage the rapidly increasing demand for our hospital’s services,” he said.

“We currently have 15 cubicles in our ED, many of which are frequently occupied by patients waiting for mental health inpatient placement or community transfer.

“We are also treating increasingly more complex health issues at our hospital as a result of having an Intensive Care Unit.”

Adjunct Professor Cornelissen said ED presentations are projected to increase by more than 107 per cent by 2026 as a result of Wyndham’s population growth. The number of daily ED presentations at Werribee Mercy fell from 130 people in July-September 2019 to 109 people in July-September this year.

Adjunct Professor Cornelissen said Werribee Mercy was grateful the state government had constructed the Catherine McAuley Building, with an eight-bed Intensive Care Unit and additional surgical capacity, two years ago.

“However, what our hospital and, most importantly, the people of Melbourne’s west needs, is to move forward with additional redevelopment through the expansion of both the physical capacity of Werribee Mercy Hospital, and the services that it provides,” he said.

Adjunct Professor Cornelissen said that new infection control safety measures, plus the furloughing of hospital staff due to coronavirus infection or close contact with the virus, had contributed to ED waiting times.

He said the “small improvement” to Werribee Mercy’s ED waiting times could be attributed to a number of service improvements which have been implemented across the hospital, and a committed and high-performing workforce.