Hospital packed to capacity

By ED SOUTHORN

Health reporter

TWEED Hospital is literally full of patients less than three years after a $32 million capital works expansion.

The Tweed Heads hospital is planning to redesign its outpatient section to make room for more inpatient beds and is expected to seek extra funding next year to re-start its building program.

Tweed Hospital has been referring some cardiology patients to John Flynn Hospital for more than 12 months, with an extra $300,000 already budgeted to pay for the Tugun private hospital services.

And Tweed Hospital does not provide neurosurgery or neo-natal care for babies under 32 weeks ? these patients are treated at the Gold Coast, Mater or Royal Women's hospitals.

Tweed Hospital general manager Trish Hogan yesterday said inpatient numbers over the past five years had jumped from 9500 a year to 22,000 forecast for this calendar year.

For the same period, the annual number of births had increased from 700 to about 1000, and an extra 60 inpatient beds had been provided, she said.

Associate Professor Hogan said it was difficult to gauge exactly how the Queensland public health system crisis has impacted on Tweed Hospital, which receives 30 per cent of its patients from Queensland.

She said popula-tion growth in northern NSW, along with the Chinderah-to-Yelgun freeway, had contributed greatly to the increased patient load, with Ocean Shores residents now better able to travel to Tweed Heads for hospital care.

"It is difficult for our physical infrastructure to keep up with the increased demand," Assoc Prof Hogan said.

"Our patient load is full."

Tweed Hospital's emergency department was now the sixth busiest in NSW, she said.

North Coast Area Health Service chief Chris Crawford last month called for more doctors to ease the Tweed Hospital emergency department workload, after the depart- ment recorded its busiest-ever month last December.

Assoc Prof Hogan did not reveal exactly what capital works would be planned for the next stage of the hospital's growth.

The recently completed capital works included a new mental health unit, two new operating theatres, extra day surgery treatment areas, medical oncology and renal dialysis units, extra medical beds and a new community health centre.



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