The controversial decision on whether to replace Mullumbimby Hospital’s overnight doctor with a video link to Tweed Hospital has been delayed following routine asbestos remediation work in the ceiling of emergency unit that has forced its temporary relocation.
But campaigners against the move say the work should not be used as an excuse to delay a decision on whether or not to proceed with the trial.
The work started two months ago and is expected to finish next month.
A Northern NSW Local Health District spokesperson said the asbestos was being contained in the emergency unit’s ceiling and ‘therefore, the telehealth trial is on hold’ until some time in December when the unit was back in its original location.
Echonetdaily found out about the asbestos work only after inquiring about the trial.
Nurses against bureaucrat Chris Crawford’s plans
Save Mullumbimby Hospital steering committee’s Frank Lynch said the district health board and chief executive Chris Crawford had ‘clearly stated’ that a decision on the contentious trial would be made at the next board meeting on November 28.
‘Whether telehealth goes ahead or not with the removal of the overnight doctor from the hospital was always dependent on nurses’ agreement,’ Mr Lynch said.
‘The nurses have unanimously rejected the removal of the doctor part of the trial and there’s been no change in their position. The board has said if the nurses don’t agree, it won’t go ahead; that was always the basis for making the decision.
Mr Lynch said the health district board chair, Hazel Bridgett, had expressed concern at a public meeting the trial had ‘given rise to much anxiety in the community’.
‘So if they don’t make a decision when they said they would and continue this unresolved situation, that anxiety will continue.’
Mr Lynch said the asbestos problem at the hospital was ‘common knowledge’ and identified ‘way back’.
‘In 2000, there were threats to close the hospital to remediate it or close it permanently, which gave rise to community concern. The asbestos was used in the ceiling insulation and in those days they used to pump it into the ceiling cavity.’
Mr Lynch said he remembered that when the asbestos was first investigated, it was also announced that presence of asbestos fibres was detected in the soil surrounding the building.
NSW Nurses Association organiser Nola Scilinato told Echonetdaily this week that nurses were still strongly opposed to the trial continuing without a doctor.