The Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSW LHD) has officially reduced the operating hours of the children’s ward at Murwillumbah Hospital, following its inability to guarantee ongoing staffing for the ward.
Last week, the NNSW LHD board decided to retain the ward, which had been threatened with closure by the state government due to the staffing shortages.
But in future, it will accept new patients only between 7am Monday and 5pm Friday, meaning new patients will not be able to access the ward on weekends.
A spokesperson for the health district said outside these hours, newly admitted children would either be held in the ‘paediatric room’ of the emergency department or would be transported to the Tweed Hospital to be treated there.
NNSW LHD chairman Brian Pezutti told ABC radio this morning that the room was ‘a separate part of the ED, it’s not part of the hurly burly of the ward. Of course if that becomes unworkable then the child will go to Tweed.’
Labour state candidates for Lismore and Tweed have castigated the government over the changes, demanding the full-time status of the ward be reinstated.
Lismore Labor candidate Isaac Smith said the people who relied on the children’s ward deserved better.
‘The Nationals have shown that they cannot be trusted with delivering hospital services.
‘Nationals MP Thomas George must guarantee that this is a permanent decision, not just a bluff to tide him over until election day next March.’
‘With the Nationals backing down on their shameful ward closure plan, it is fair enough to ask if they are already planning to cut other health services to compensate.’
Fellow Labor candidate for Tweed, Ron Goodman, backed the retention of the children’s ward, but said he was concerned about the state government’s plans to transport more patients to Tweed Hospital.
‘The Nationals know that any plans to transport more patients from Murwillumbah will put more pressure on Tweed Hospital services,’ Mr Goodman said.
But sitting Nationals Lismore MP Thomas George backed the government’s decision.
‘I’m very pleased to hear that the NNSW LHD board has decided that the paediatric ward will remain open. This is great news for the Murwillumbah and surrounds community,’ Mr George said.
‘It is also pleasing that the board has approved enhancements to the hospital’s paediatric service, including two specialist paediatric clinics per week, more utilisation of the new ED Paediatric Room and a better interface between hospital and community paediatric services,’ he added.
Upgrade to go ahead
In related news, the state government has announced a long-awaited upgrade to Murwillumbah’s emergency department will now proceed.
Greg Clark Building has been awarded the tender to complete the $450,000 third and final stage of the Murwillumbah District Hospital emergency department upgrade.
The funding will be used to build a new resuscitation area and three additional acute observation bays.
‘Once stage three is completed a full renovation of the ED will have been finalised creating a state-of-the-art facility that will assist the ED staff to provide quicker care to more patients. The ED will have nearly doubled in size due to this redevelopment,’ Mr George said.
‘The upgrade means more patients can be attended to simultaneously and patient flow is improved, which is the best outcome for patients, clinicians, staff and the Murwillumbah and surrounds community,’ Mr George said.