Waiting times have dropped at the emergency department of Northern Hospital, falling below the state average for the first time.

The latest state government Health Services Performance Report shows median waiting times at Northern’s emergency department dropped from 22 minutes in September to 19 minutes in December.

The state average is 20 minutes.

But the report also shows The Northern Hospital’s emergency department still struggles to meet set treatment benchmarks, with some category two and three patients not seen in a timely manner.

The government requires hospitals to treat 80 per cent of category two patients within 10 minutes of their arrival, while 75 per cent of category three patients must be seen within 30 minutes.

At Northern Hospital, 79 per cent of category two patients and 71 per cent of category three patients were treated on time.

Emergency services director Peter Jordan said the hospital had experienced a surge in patients in the three months to December, treating 23,511 people in emergency.

This is an increase of nine per cent on the previous year, he said.

“In the same period, we experienced a 44 per cent increase in paediatric presentations, with 4934 presentations from October to December,” Dr Jordan said. “Northern Health has employed additional medical and nursing staff to help meet growing demand and strengthen paediatrics within the emergency department.”

Dr Jordan said the hospital was also working with Ambulance Victoria to reduce patient transfer times and to ensure ambulances can return to duty in the community as soon as possible.

In December, the Northern’s median transfer time for ambulance patients was 23 minutes, compared to the state average of 19 minutes.