Doctors save ward from cuts
MURWILLUMBAH doctors are hailing a last-minute decision by health service bosses to return full maternity services to embattled Murwillumbah Hospital as a victory for the community.
The North Coast Area Health Service began restoring full 24-hour, seven-days-a-week maternity services at Murwillumbah yesterday.
The move followed a decision on Friday to end a trial which saw mothers about to give birth out of normal hospital hours transferred to The Tweed Hospital at Tweed Heads.
“It's good news - a little battle won, although not the war,” said Doug Warne, GP obstetrician and head of the medical staff council at the hospital.
Dr Warne, one of four GP obstetricians who lodged letters of resignation from work at the hospital last month, said the resignation threats would be in limbo until the doctors were convinced the maternity services were back permanently.
He warned that might depend on a decision on the hospital's future which is now set to be made by NSW Health Minister John Della Bosca later this month.
“We haven't got anything in writing and we are always wary of statements, but we have got to the first step,” Dr Warne said.
“Now we want to meet with Minister Della Bosca.
“We want to publicise this good news so our patients feel safe coming to us.
“But we may only have it for two weeks.
“For the Area Health Service to have put full services back is not what they wanted to do.
“They are starting to get their heads around the fact The Tweed (Hospital) can't cope with any flow-on from us at the moment.
“It is a victory for the community ... but we have to keep the public pressure up.
“Hopefully we can get some even better news in a few weeks time.”
The North Coast Area Health Service confirmed full coverage by obstetricians, gynaecologists and anaesthetists had resumed.
But a spokesperson said negotiations concerning rosters and other matters were continuing late yesterday, and a statement would be released today.
In early February the NSW Government was asked to intervene in the way the North Coast Area Health Service was running Murwillumbah District Hospital, transferring both management and services to The Tweed Hospital.
Lismore National MP Thomas George, whose seat includes Murwillumbah, said the concerns had been taken directly to the government's parliamentary secretary for health, Dr Andrew McDonald, who assists Health Minister John Della Bosca.
Mr George, chairman of the hospital community support committee Ian Ross and local medics Dr Warne and Alan Secombe took the concerns to Mr McDonald when he visited the Tweed a few days beforehand.
Mr George said they listed three main issues of concern.
Those were: the cutbacks in obstetric services at Murwillumbah hospital; the lack of confidence in the North Coast Area Health Service and the resignation; and the non-replacement of Murwillumbah executive officer Ian Murray who resigned last year.