DESPITE REPLACING CEO AND CHAIR, A MINISTERIAL REVIEW AND A NEW HOSPITAL – PROBLEMS REMAIN AT SOUTH EAST REGIONAL HOSPITAL

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NSW Labor said major and systematic problems remain at the South East Regional Hospital affecting patients – despite the Berejiklian Government replacing the Southern NSW Local Health District CEO and its chair – as well as a full ministerial review into the hospital and its orthopaedic surgical services.

It also said that waits for elective surgery and in the emergency department at South East Regional Hospital were longer at the brand new facility than they were at the old one – due to a lack of proper staffing at the hospital.

NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley made the observation on a visit to Bega to meet local health and hospital workers.  

Mr Foley was joined by NSW Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord; NSW MLC and Duty MLC for Bega, Mrs Courtney Houssos – at the South East Regional Hospital.

(In early August, the Health Minister Brad Hazzard removed Janet Compton as the Southern NSW Local Health District’s CEO and Jenny Symons as the LHD chair. Ms Symons was replaced by Dr Allan Hawke. This followed a ministerial review into the hospital and the local health district by Adrian Nowitzke and Michael Reid, which found increasing pressure over the management of Bega Hospital, staff pressures, complaints about a culture of bullying and harassment at the facility and the departure of an orthopaedic surgeon.)

Mr Foley also pointed to recent independent data from the Bureau of Health Information which shows that South East Regional Hospital remains one of the most under pressure hospitals in rural and regional NSW. It still has unacceptable waits for elective surgery especially for elderly patients seeking orthopaedic surgery.

This means that far South Coast patients have to travel to Wollongong, Sydney or Canberra for treatment.

Mr Secord said doctors, nurses and allied health workers at South East Regional Hospital are doing their best and are “working their guts out for patients”, but they were not being properly resourced by the Berejiklian Government.

Mr Secord said the removal of the senior figures at the Southern NSW Local Health District has not solved the problems at the South East Regional Hospital – especially in orthopaedic surgery.

He also launched an attack on the MP for Bega and Minister for Transport and Infrastructure – Mr Andrew Constance accusing him of “being pre-occupied with his ministerial duties in Sydney and neglecting the region”.

In March/April 2016, the new South East Regional Hospital was officially opened at a cost of almost $200 million.

He said despite the brand new hospital, there was still the “bizarre and ludicrous” situation of having longer waits in the emergency department and for elective surgery in the new hospital than in the old hospital.

Elective surgery

South East Regional Hospital has some of the longest waits for elective surgery in NSW – especially for orthopaedic surgery.   More than half of the patients on the waiting list for elective surgery are waiting for orthopaedic surgery. Overall, the median wait for non-urgent elective surgery at Bega is 272 days but 10 per cent of patients faced a median wait of 359 days.

As of June 30, there were 754 patients waiting for elective surgery. This includes:

  • 380 patients for orthopaedic surgery;
  • 101 patients for cataract removal;
  • 175 patients for knee replacements; and
  • 70 patients for hip replacements.

                                      

Source: Bureau of Health Information (BHI) data – April to June 2017 

 

Emergency department

Currently, more than a quarter (25.1 per cent) of patients at South East Regional Hospital wait longer than four hours in emergency department.  During this period from April to June 2017, 4,109 patients visited the emergency department.

Quotes attributable to NSW Labor Leader Luke Foley

“It is absolutely ludicrous that patients wait longer at the new hospital than the old one.

“The Liberals promised to fix the problems at South East Regional Hospital, but the problems with orthopaedic surgery remain. South East Regional Hospital lurches from problem to problem.

“Patients are flooding the emergency department because they cannot get into a GP’s practice or they are unable to pay extra for a GP – putting unnecessary pressure on the State’s emergency departments. In desperation, families on tight budgets are turning to emergency departments.

“Sadly, patients wait at every stage in NSW. They wait for an ambulance; they wait outside the emergency department and they wait inside the emergency department. They wait for a bed and then they are discharged early to make room for other patients.”

“Doctors, nurses and allied health workers at South East Regional Hospital are doing their best and are working their guts out for patients, but they were not being properly resourced and supported by the Berejiklian Government.”

“The removal of the senior figures at the Southern NSW Local Health District did not fix the problems at the South East Regional Hospital – especially in orthopaedic surgery. In fact, the lists have grown longer and the waits longer.

“Sadly, Andrew Constance, the MP for Bega and Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, has dropped the ball on health and hospitals in the region. Unfortunately, he has been pre-occupied with his ministerial duties in Sydney and has neglected the region.”