Health authorities have moved to reassure locals that Mullumbimby Hospital will provide professional emergency care for anyone attending there for urgent medical help.
The move follows an incident earlier this month in which a 44-year-old Myocum man was hospitalised in Brisbane with a life-threatening illness, two days after attending Mullumbimby Hospital where he was unable to be seen immediately by a doctor for a suspected viral infection.
Early in the morning of Sunday, July 1, the man had returned home to lie down rather than wait to be seen by the rostered Mullumbimby overnight doctor, who was unavailable till later that morning.
However, the man’s condition sharply deteriorated and the next day his family found him at home, confused and delirious, and called an ambulance.
According to an APN Media report, the ambulance paramedics took him back to Mullumbimby Hospital where he was treated with fluids and antibiotics before he was transferred to Tweed Hospital’s intensive care unit.
There, the man was found to have a life-threatening infection affecting all major organs including his heart.
The following day, around midday
on Tuesday, July 3, he was transported to Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital, where it was confirmed an infection that started in his heart had caused an abscess in his brain and damaged one of his heart valves.
Acting chief executive of the Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSW LHD) Annette Symes told Echonetdaily that anyone attending Mullumbimby Hospital ‘will be seen and assessed by a trained emergency health professional upon arrival’.
‘When patients attend Mullumbimby Hospital for treatment at night, hospital medical and nursing rosters ensure that patients are able to access the clinical care they need,’ Ms Symes said.
The incident has thrown the spotlight on the proposed controversial restructure of the hospital’s emergency department whereby the overnight rostered doctor will be replaced by a tele-conferencing system operated by a nurse with a video link to a doctor at Tweed Hospital.
Hundreds of locals have attended two public protest meetings recently over the contentious new system, which local nurses and doctors say will lead to the demise of the hospital.
Nurses fear the video-link replacement of the overnight doctor amounts to a downgrade of medical services at the hospital by stealth.
LHD chief executive Chris Crawford will address the third public meeting on the issue at Mullumbimby High School hall on 2 August at 7pm.
Mr Crawford will be available to answer questions at the meeting, organised by the Save Mullum Hospital steering committee.
Meanwhile, Echonetdaily has been told the new $80,000 teleconferencing equipment for the system, set to be in use by late October, arrived at the hospital two weeks ago but is unable to be used at this stage owing to ‘a software issue’.
A nurses-union spokesperson said, ‘this is a good example of what could happen with this new system when there’s no overnight doctor there’.