'IT'S A JOKE': Rob Davies, co-chair of the Medical Staff Council, at Tweed Heads Hospital.
'IT'S A JOKE': Rob Davies, co-chair of the Medical Staff Council, at Tweed Heads Hospital. Nolan Verheij-Full

Doctors raise fears over hospital services

THE Tweed's top doctors hold grave concerns over the services being considered for the new $534 million Tweed Valley Hospital, claiming the current plans are not "futureproof”.

Network director for Emergency Medicine and co-chair of the Medical Staff Council at Tweed Heads Hospital, Rob Davies, said the medical council had four major concerns over the services being considered for the hospital in a draft service statement which has not yet been released to the public.

He said the hospital would need an additional "56 beds” on top of the 400 beds currently in the draft plan to cater for population growth in the next 10 to 15 years.

"We feel a couple of wards are being planned for about 28 beds each and need about 50 each,” Dr Davies said.

"An extra 56 would be a much safer place to start, we don't want to get to five years after the build like many other hospitals and run out of space.”

Dr Davies said hospital staff had also been told it was being assessed whether or not the hospital needed a PET scanner which can be used to help discover cancers, tumours, dementia, epilepsy and other health issues.

"We think it's very short sighted, the cancer volume alone we think requires a PET scanner,” he said.

"With the ageing population we have, the massive tsunami of dementia and Alzheimer's heading our way, these technologies are absolutely essential and there's just no discussion to be had.

"If hospitals such as Lismore, Coffs and Port Macquarie all have one and we don't, should patients head to the Gold Coast and join the queue there?

"It's a joke.”

A lack of pathology services at the new hospital is another concern, with plans for the new hospital's pathology lab to be less than half the size of the lab at the hospital in Lismore.

This would mean blood tests and other samples would still need to be sent away to Lismore and sometimes even Sydney for processing.

"Lismore already has more than twice the size of the lab they want to build at the new hospital and we say that's absolute nonsense,” Dr Davies said.

"To keep sending stuff down the road is ridiculous and it should be processed at the new hospital."

Dr Davies said the space allocated for the pathology lab, just 200 square metres, would not fit the machines needed to perform all the necessary tests.

He said a sleep lab was also being "looked into” but felt there was an "absolute need for the service in the area”.

"We know a lot of sleep apnea is related to obesity and ageing and the rates continue to increase rapidly,” he said.

"If we're not treating that the disease burden can get worse.

"It's being looked into but we feel there's a significant need for that in our area, it's a low socio-economic area, we can't be sending patients off to private facilities, our population won't want to go to the Gold Coast where there's a 10-month wait for sleep studies.”

Dr Davies said he could not stress "the absolute urgency” of these issues.

"We are very overwhelmed at the moment with the volume of patients we're trying to deal with and the hospital is constantly full,” he said.

"We're having constant bed block issues with overnight patients waiting in the Emergency Department.

"It's going to be very difficult over the next four years and any delays is something the Medical Staff Council is very fearful of.”

A letter outlining the Medical Staff Council's concerns has been sent to Tweed MP Geoff Provest, who told the Tweed Daily News he would be taking the concerns directly to NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard.



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