Record ambulance ramping at WA hospitals

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There is hope Western Australia is past the peak of its COVID-19 and flu outbreaks as ambulance ramping figures reach new heights.

Ambulances have spent 6531 hours ramped outside hospitals in the first four weeks of July, overtaking the record set last August.

Ambulance ramping, where patients face long waits to be handed over to emergency departments (ED), has blown out since the McGowan government took office in 2017.

Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson on Friday defended the figures, saying every health system in the world was facing similar pressures.

"We knew it was going to get worse before it got better," she said.

"With record COVID hospitalisations, winter demand, staff furloughing and other sick leave, and infection control procedures to protect our hospitals from rising COVID-19 cases in the community.

"Coupled with a lack of access to GPs, some of whom are not seeing respiratory patients, this is all exacerbating pressure and increasing demand on EDs."

But the state's chief health officer revealed WA's current wave of COVID-19 infections appeared to have peaked, with 4423 cases recorded on Friday.

Dr Andy Robertson also played down suggestions there were large numbers of cases going undetected.

"We appear to be past the peak of the current wave," he told ABC radio.

"There are indicators we use that give us some certainty that case numbers as a whole are coming down, and we're not missing a lot of cases."

Dr Robertson said while July had been a very busy month, the number of flu cases was falling dramatically after a significant early outbreak, as was the number of healthcare workers furloughed due to COVID-19 protocols.

He said his advice had been consistently followed by Premier Mark McGowan and it was unlikely widespread mask mandates would return.

Ms Sanderson last week said WA's wave of COVID-19 infections was unlikely to peak until mid-late August.

The McGowan government has been critical of the performance of St John Ambulance, whose chief executive Michelle Fyfe resigned last month.

However, doctors and the Liberal-National opposition have pointed the finger at the state government for not providing sufficient hospital capacity.

"This shocking record lies squarely at the feet of the McGowan government - there is no one else to blame," opposition health spokeswoman Libby Mettam said on Friday.

The Labor government recently poured a further $252 million into emergency departments, including funding to free up beds occupied by long-stay hospital patients.

Ms Sanderson said she wasn't looking for quick fixes and was committed to tackling the underlying drivers of ambulance ramping.

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