Construction of Byron shire’s new hospital has finished almost a month ahead of schedule, with new equipment, including a CT scanner, arriving in the past week.
Acting Northern NSW Local Health District CEO Annette Symes says the hospital is set to open ‘a few weeks early’ with 32 out of a total of 43 possible beds to be commissioned in the first instance.
She said that current estimates based on Byron Bay and Mullumbimby hospitals’ requirements, on average 21 beds would be needed ‘but we have capacity to flex up to 32 beds if that’s required.’
Ms Symes said the ‘commissioning phase’ will take approximately 10 weeks, with an earlier estimated opening date of mid May.
She told ABC radio this morning that new furnishings and important equipment were yet to be delivered and staff would need to undergo orientation before the doors open to patients.
Ms Symes said ‘the majority’ of the two hospitals’ existing staff, including ‘all of the nursing staff’ will be transferring to Byron Central Hospital.
She added management was ‘working through the process’ of ‘supporting’ staff ‘who ‘may not have a job there’.
‘Every permanent staff member will have a permanent position within the local health district,’ Ms Symes said.
But Health Services Union (HSU) northern NSW organiser Jonathan Milman disputes that statement.
‘That’s not correct at all,’ he told Echonetdaily.
‘I’m expecting to learn this week that one of the maintenance men will not be offered a job unless he’s prepared to work as a part time cleaner,’ he added.
‘In the admin area there are currently more staff working in the existing hospitals than there are positions to apply for.
‘Yet the hospital hasn’t released plans on how they expect them to cope with the increased workload.
We’re now told that the hospital could be open as soon as “late April”, which is a significant change from the original plan of July 1.
‘Management have not gone through proper consultation – they’re making changes on the fly and our members very upset,’ he said.
Mr Milman added that the process had been ‘managed atrociously’ and ‘in breach of the government’s own policy’.
He said local MP Tamara Smith (Greens) has been invited to tour the hospital today ‘so she can hear first hand of the significant issues.’