The State Government is desperately trying to recruit a paediatric gastroenterologist for Princess Margaret Hospital, where children are waiting an average of 10 months just to be assessed.

Health Minister Kim Hames confirmed yesterday that on top of a shortage of radiation oncologists to treat children with cancer, PMH needed a full-time and a part-time gastroenterologist because of long waiting times.

Figures for outpatient appointments at PMH in September show some children waited up to a year to see a gastroenterologist.

Apart from those waiting to get their first appointment, 109 children have been seen but are in the queue to have an endoscopy, a test that involves putting a tube with a camera down the throat.

More than a third of them have already waited more than clinically recommended times.

Dr Hames said he became aware of the worsening problem with gastroenterology staffing about six months ago but at that time the Health Department believed it had found a new paediatric gastroenterologist in Britain.

But after months of negotiation, the doctor did not take the job so the department was about to readvertise the position.

He was confident the situation would improve by using a more streamlined system so some children could go straight on to the waiting list for an endoscopy rather than have to see a PMH specialist first.

"Just like paediatric radiation oncologists, there is a shortage of paediatric gastroenterologists and it is hard to find someone," he said.

"All the paediatric gastroenterologists working in WA already do some work at PMH so it's not like we can just get more staff locally."

Last week, gold miner Northern Star Resources offered a $200,000 bonus for a radiation oncologist prepared to come to WA for two years to treat children with cancer.

The payment would be on top of what the Health Department paid the doctor.

Dr Hames said he had not been formally told of the offer but was happy for the company to pay the bonus if it helped attract a doctor.

"The point has to be made though that we're not offering peanuts to this specialist, so it's not necessarily the money that is stopping us from getting someone," he said.

"But it's good of the company to make such a generous offer and if that's something that helps someone weighing up coming to WA, then that's fine."

The average waiting time for a priority one case to see a gastroenterologist at PMH is 213 days.

The West Australian

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