Rally to save Murwillumbah hospital

TWEED doctors have thrown their support behind a public protest march against planned cutbacks to services at Murwillumbah District Hospital.

The doctors and the Murwillumbah Hospital Community Support Committee are hoping hundreds of residents will turn out for the march down Murwillumbah's main street on Saturday week, culminating in a rally outside the Murwillumbah Civic Centre.

The protest -- the first public rally in support of the hospital since a huge march in 1991 -- particularly aims to protect the hospital's emergency maternity services.

Spokesperson for the doctors and the committee Dr Alan Secombe yesterday announced the march -- already being promoted on the internet site Facebook -- would be held at noon on Saturday, July 5.

It is due to start near the soccer fields in Mooball Street, then move up Queensland Road and down Murwillumbah's main street to the cenotaph in front of the Civic Centre.

Speakers are to then address the crowd on a proposed cutback to hospital services, in particular the maternity service.

"Currently the 24-hour, seven-days-a-week maternity service at Murwillumbah caters for between 350 and 400 women who are giving birth per year," said Dr Secombe.

"With anticipated growth in the population of Murwillumbah, outlying areas and the Tweed Coast the numbers are expected to rise.

"Models being proposed as an alternative are proposing removal of all emergency services, including caesarean sections for women having babies.

"This means if an emergency arises for a woman in late pregnancy or in labour after normal working hours they will be transferred via ambulance to The Tweed Hospital, assuming Tweed has the capacity to accept them.

"That is an added and unnecessary risk for these patients."

Fellow doctor Doug Warne said the North Coast Area Health Service had been talking with doctors and hospital staff about the changes but "it does seem time for the community to have its say".

"People's safety will be put at risk and it doesn't make sense," Dr Warne added. "Tweed is a hospital we all know is completely overrun and under-resourced."

Both doctors warned the cutbacks would end the need to have operating theatre staff on call for caesarean sections at the hospital.

They said that would reduce the use of Murwillumbah hospital's operating theatre even further.

"If one part of the hospital has its services diminished, there is a flow-through to other parts of the hospital," said Dr Secombe.

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