Surgery change blasted

TWEED MP Neville Newell has slammed changes to surgery lists at the Tweed Heads and Murwillumbah hospitals announced last week by the Northern Rivers Area Health Service (NRAHS) administrator Chris Crawford.

According to Mr Crawford, the change in general surgery arrangements would allow emergency and more urgent general surgery patients to be treated more quickly and in normal hours at The Tweed Hospital.

He said the increases at The Tweed Hospital would be achieved by expanding operating theatre lists from four to six hours for each of the general surgeons who operate there.

Mr Crawford said 340 extra cataract operations would be undertaken at Murwillumbah Hospital in 2004/2005.

"All residents of Murwillumbah and surrounds will gain better access to General Surgery treatment at The Tweed Hospital due to the 50 per cent increase in the length of time of those lists," Mr Crawford said.

But Mr Newell said the administrator had failed Tweed residents and put at risk higherlevel services at Murwillumbah Hospital.

"Mr Crawford's announcement is nothing but smoke and mirrors to disguise the impact of what can only be described as shocking administration," he said.

"Reducing higher-level medical procedures at Murwillumbah and transferring these to Tweed Hospital will ultimately see reductions in other higher-level procedures at Murwillumbah Hospital.

"Already a specialist anaesthetist has had to resign due to the reduction in higher-level procedures that has been allowed to occur in recent months. Other staff will become de-skilled over time," Mr Newell said.

"The administrator has ignored concerns raised by Murwillumbah's medical fraternity.

"What is worse is that the increase in higher-level operations at Tweed will undoubtedly be taken up by patients from Queensland, who will be added to the extra lists by Queensland-based surgeons.

"If an increase in the surgery lists at Tweed is required, and indications are that it is, then this should be done with extra funds not at the expense of Murwillumbah Hospital.

"This announcement is a disgrace and a blot on the area's previously good health re- cord," Mr Newell said.

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