The future of Coraki’s hospital services look increasingly grim after the Northern NSW Local Health District announced yesterday that the town’s Urgent Care Centre (UCC) is to be further downgraded to a Community Care Centre (CCC).
The announcement is a further blow to the town, which lost its public hospital service 18 months ago, and means residents with serious health emergencies will need to travel to Lismore Base Hospital via either Wyrallah Road or Bruxner Highway. In recent weeks both roads have been flood affected.
The CCC will be staffed by two nurses four hours a day, four days a week, and will receive just four hours a week of doctor services plus ‘input from community and allied health staff’.
The CCC will be open for the same hours as the UCC from Monday to Thursday from 8am till noon but its focus will be on chronic and community medicine rather than urgent medical needs.
The community of Coraki has been fighting for the reopening of Campbell Hospital since a section of the roof sustained damage in a storm in October 2011. It has not reopened since, despite Save the Campbell Hospital Committee saying that funding is available to pay for necessary repairs.
In response to community concerns about the closure of the hospital, the Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSW LHD) agreed to a six month trial of the UCC, operating from the ground floor of the Coraki Conference Centre.
The NNSW LHD Board received an evaluation report on the UCC at its March meeting, which concluded that that ‘most of the patients treated at the UCC could have been treated in a general practice’, CEO of NNSW LHD, Chris Crawford, said yesterday in a media release.
‘Further, it found that the volume of patients attending the UCC has been low with an average of only one patient attending the UCC each 45 minutes over the past six months,’ he added.
‘The Board concluded that the UCC is mainly duplicating services already provided by local GPs and these new arrangements will be discussed with them.
‘The cost of providing the primary care services through the UCC model was found to be much more expensive than providing such services through the GP model.’
The CCC will be trialled for three months from March 25.
The NNSW LHD’s website still incorrectly states that Campbell Hospital is a level two rural hospital operating an emergency medical centre from 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 8pm daily.
Yesterday’s announcement came just a day before the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NSWNMA) officially launches its campaign for a new state award, which challenges the O’Farrell government to build on the safer hospital staffing levels introduced in 2011 under an agreement between the NSWNMA and the previous Labor government.
A key feature of the 2013 claim is guaranteed, safer nursing levels for rural hospitals among a variety of other community health services.
‘The O’Farrell government is very willing to take credit every time a new batch of nurses or midwives is employed to fill the new positions created by the first round of ratios, which were actually agreed between the NSWNMA and previous Labor government,’ said Brett Holmes, NSWNMA general secretary.
‘It will be interesting to see how it reacts now that it has a chance to act in its own right and extend this reform into other important areas such as children’s wards, emergency departments, high dependency units, rural facilities and community health services.
‘Hopefully it will heed the strong message being sent by the state’s nurses and midwives and do the right thing, without the need for an extended campaign.’