The lack of doctors at Katanning Hospital’s emergency department was under the microscope in State Parliament last month, exactly one year after statistics revealed the severity of the town’s shortage of medics. Questioning by Nationals WA health spokesman Martin Aldridge on May 21 revealed there were no full-time equivalent salaried doctors employed by the Katanning Health Service. Data from Narrogin, Northam and Merredin hospitals was also released, with Katanning the only hospital on the list without a full-time equivalent salaried doctor. Government figures showed Narrogin employed two FTE doctors, Northam 1.15, and Merredin 0.3. It was also revealed that from July 1, 2019 to March 30 this year, there were 24 occasions when there was no doctor “available to be rostered or rostered on-call” at the Katanning ED. Katanning had the highest number of instances when no doctor was available, followed by Narrogin with 18, Merredin with seven, and none for Northam. Over the same period, 154 patients triaged at the hospitals were classified at an Australasian Triage Scale category of three or less, meaning they required medical assessment and treatment within 30 minutes. Three patients at Narrogin were classified ATS 1, meaning they required immediate treatment — usually resuscitation — with no doctors there to assist. At Katanning, there were 41 ATS 3 patients and and six ATS 2 patients. The data indicated an improvement from last year, when it was revealed there were 104 occasions from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019 when no doctor was available to be rostered or rostered on-call in Katanning, and 45 in Narrogin. Representing Minister for Health Roger Cook last month, Labor MLC Alanna Clohesy said there were a number of reasons for the figures. She cited unexpected leave taken at short notice, fatigue management, and general GP shortages. Ms Clohesy said all four hospitals had 24-hour access to the Emergency Telehealth Service. “Local senior doctors may be asked to cover roster gaps in ED when rostered on duty for another task such as anaesthetic or ward cover,” she said. “Northam and Albany hospitals are able to provide remote support to Narrogin, Merredin and Katanning hospitals. “ED nurse practitioners are available in Northam, Merredin and Katanning hospitals and can assist by seeing lower-acuity ED presentations.” Ms Clohesy said Katanning had access to the Inpatient Telehealth Service to help doctors and nursing teams assess, respond to and admit patients. The figures are the latest sign of a long-running GP shortage in the Great Southern. In May last year, Member for Roe Peter Rundle questioned Mr Cook about the “severe shortage of doctors in the Katanning Hospital ED”. He asked whether the WA Country Health Service had taken steps to alleviate community concerns about the supply of doctors. Mr Cook said he had repeatedly raised the issue with the Commonwealth Government. “Emergency departments in hospitals like Katanning Hospital rely on GPs to fill out the roster and to make sure that there is a complete roster for the 24/7 emergency service being provided,” he said.