Work on Sunshine Hospital’s new $34 million emergency department has begun.

The hospital’s emergency department is one of the busiest in the state, treating more than 65,000 patients a year.

Once upgrades are completed, the department will be able to treat an extra 59,000 patients a year and have the ability to treat 19,700 children a year.

The emergency department will include a 24-hour short stay unit to treat people with mental health or drug or alcohol-related problems in urgent need and a crisis hub.

Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos said it was a major win for the west.

“This massive expansion will deliver the services that local families deserve, ensuring they can get the best emergency care, when they need it, closer to home.

“A trip to the emergency department can be frightening for kids.

That’s why we’re creating a dedicated, calming space designed specifically for children, so parents can have peace of mind during a stressful time.”

The new emergency department is expected to open in 2021, creating 100 jobs during the peak of construction.

It’s a much-needed boost for the hospital, which was recently ranked as one of the worst in the country for emergency wait times.

Just 71 per cent of emergency patients (those requiring treatment within 10 minutes) were treated on time in 2016-17, according to the federal government’s MyHospitals website.

The average for medium metropolitan hospitals with an emergency department was 79 per cent.

The gap widens for less urgent care – for Sunshine patients requiring treatment within 30 minutes of arrival, 51 per cent were seen on time, compared to the average of 65 per cent for similar hospitals.

Just 51 per cent of those requiring semi-urgent treatment at Sunshine (within 60 minutes) were seen on time, compared to the peer group average of 73 per cent.