The controversial move to replace Mullumbimby Hospital’s overnight doctor with a video-conferencing system came under fire in federal parliament yesterday with the state government called on to scrap the ‘cruel’ plan.
The issue has now been raised in both state and federal parliaments. In June, state opposition leader John Robertson asked why the overnight doctor was being replaced against the wishes of the local community and hospital nurses.
Yesterday, it was Richmond MP Justine Elliot’s turn, telling federal MPs the local community had some serious concerns about the proposal, set to be trialled for six months from October, and called on state minister for the north coast and Ballina MP Don Page to ‘urgently act on these concerns’.
‘Don Page is either unwilling or unable to stand up and fight for the residents of the north coast. He needs to start doing his job and guarantee families on the north coast that this video link will not go ahead at Mullumbimby Hospital,’ Mrs Elliot said.
‘The situation is totally unacceptable and I know that locals will not be silenced on this issue. The O’Farrell government has previously promised to support rural and regional hospitals but all we have seen is broken promises and harsh cuts to local families.’
Mrs Elliot said she shared concerns of nurses, doctors and the community, calling on Mr Page to ‘stop this cruel cut’ to the hospital.
‘The fact is that parents with a very sick child or a relative who has been injured at night need to have the security of knowing that if they rush to the emergency department at Mullumbimby Hospital there will be a doctor there, not a video camera link to another hospital,’ she said.
‘While I am a very strong supporter of telehealth, and I understand the great benefits it brings to accessing health services… the fact is it cannot replace a doctor in an emergency department in a country hospital. It is an additional medical resource, not a replacement.
‘Despite the concerns of local doctors, nurses and residents, local member Don Page has been unable to provide guarantees that a trial will not go ahead. He needs to come clean and assure people of the north coast that this will not go ahead, that the video link will not go ahead in any form at all.’