The West

Doctors are warning that WA public hospitals are unlikely to meet national performance targets for emergency departments from next year, despite being the best- performing State at present.

Commenting on the Australian Medical Association's annual report card on public hospitals, WA president Richard Choong said although WA was the only State meeting the interim National Emergency Access Target, he believed its ability to make the hospital system as efficient as possible had peaked and it would be unable to meet future targets.

The report found that nationally 64 per cent of emergency department visits were completed in four hours or less.

This is well under the 90 per cent target required of States by the end of 2015 under an agreement with the Federal Government that offers up to $500 million in support and reward payments.

WA was the only State to meet the interim 75 per cent target for the end of last year.

But the report also found the average waiting time for elective surgery in WA hospitals rose by one day, up from 29 days in 2010-11 to 30 days in 2011-12.

Dr Choong said hospitals had squeezed out as many efficiencies as they could but there was no capacity left.

He accused the major parties in the State election of having a "policy vacuum" on health and called on them to commit more resources.

He said they were "obsessed" with transport issues when health was most voters' biggest concern.

"In three weeks time, we go to election, and both parties need to put on notice that WA will not meet those targets this year," he said.

"In 2013, it's not expected that WA will meet these targets and that's because we're reaching a plateau.

"Without an increase in the capacity in the system, we're not going anywhere. What we need to do is increase the number of beds and the medical staff within the hospitals, particularly the after-hours decision-makers.

Dr Choong said it was also disappointing WA had increased its waiting times on elective surgery.

The West Australian

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