Sunshine Hospital’s emergency department is the west’s most in-demand, dealing with 7000 extra patients in the past financial year.

A “substantial increase in patient presentations and a steep rise in the number of much sicker patients”, is making it difficult for the hospital to reach performance targets according to Western Health’s annual report.

The hospital has the poorest rate of clearing patients from the emergency department within the recommended four-hour time, compared to Footscray and Williamstown hospitals, the report reveals.

It also has the lowest rates of emergency patients seen within recommended times.

Western Health operations executive director Russell Harrison said there had been “significant” growth in the highest priority category, triage category 1 to 3, which account for about 4500 of the 7000 extra patients.

He said Sunshine’s emergency department was seeing on average 60 ambulances per day and about 160 patients who were “self-presenting” to the hospital.

“Sunshine is the busiest of Western Health’s emergency departments and is facing the greatest challenges in meeting the four-hour performance target,” Mr Harrison said. “However, there has been a 10 per cent improvement compared with the previous year. This has also been achieved despite more than 7000 additional patient presentations.”

Mr Harrison said the establishment of critical care services at the hospital in March this year has had a major impact on the scale of emergency department presentations.

“The Sunshine Hospital emergency department was built to accommodate a lower number of presentations than it is currently seeing,” he said.

Star Weekly revealed last October that 62 patients waited more than 24 hours for treatment in Sunshine Hospital’s emergency department in the 2014-15 financial year. The 2015-16 figure was just four. Star Weekly understands longer-terms stays are often due to mental health issues.

The report found the hospital delivered 5357 babies in the past financial year, the third highest of any hospital in the state.

“This … is a key reason for the construction of the new Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s Hospital,” Mr Harrison said.

The hospital also had the highest number of WorkCover claims with 11. Mr Harrison said the large number of staff at the hospital means that the number of claims is higher in volume than it is at other Western Health sites.