Doctors turn up the heat for funds
DOCTORS are demanding the NSW Government commits to the entire redevelopment of the Tweed Hospital in one hit, rather than the piecemeal deal currently on the table.
Health Minister Jillian Skinner pledged $48 million towards the first stage of the hospital's redevelopment prior to the March 2015 election, but the full three-stage project, valued at $211m three years ago, is yet to be signed off.
The Tweed Medical Staff Council now wants a fresh promise that once the crane for construction of the first stage arrives, it stays on site to finish the job.
Intensive care unit lead and TMSC chairman Dr Mike Lindley-Jones said this would ensure the rundown facility, which was "bursting at the seams", could continue to serve the Tweed's booming population.
"We've had the first stage funded and that was good news," Dr Lindley-Jones said.
"There is consultation going on in the background, but we're concerned it's only for about 20% of the whole project. To bring the hospital up to standard, we need that support continued.
"We implore our local MP Geoff Provest to get a commitment from the health ministry that the entire redevelopment of the Tweed Hospital will be completed."
However, the medicos did not specify a dollar amount in their appeal.
"Costing projects is not our expertise," Dr Lindley- Jones said. "But it is up to us, on behalf of our patients, to campaign for the project to be completed."
Northern NSW Local Health District acting chief executive Annette Symes agreed the full redevelopment was critically needed.
"The need for an infrastructure upgrade of the Tweed Hospital has been identified by a range of planning exercises, (identifying) a growing demand that requires a capital solution to meet projected growth," Ms Symes said.
"The Tweed Local Government Area is the fastest-growing in northern NSW, with the population projected to grow by 18.2% between 2011 and 2026, an increase of 16,112 people.
"The most significant change is the projected growth in residents aged over 65 years, which is expected to increase by 46.6% between 2011 and 2026, an increase of 9291 people."
NSW shadow health minister Walt Secord weighed into the debate.
"In the spirit of bipartisanship, I want to work with the Nationals, doctors, nurses, health workers, paramedics and the community to make sure Tweed Hospital gets its fair share," Mr Secord said.
Tweed MP Geoff Provest said on Friday he had met with the Deputy Premier's office on Wednesday.
He said no redevelopment plans or costs had been finalised other than the $48m pledged, despite assertions last week the project had blown out to as much as $90m.
"Further investigations and meetings will be held next week," Mr Provest said.
"I've always been keen to support the doctors. It's not like we're sitting on the money - we're keen to spend if it's going to require more money, sure.
"I think there's an urgency to have (the entire redevelopment) done as soon as possible."
Asked if he had any hope of convincing Ms Skinner the Tweed needed more investment, Mr Provest said he was continually advocating on the Tweed's behalf.
"I'm asking her that all the time. The health minster does a really great job, but at the end of the day she's got 273 hospitals to look after across the state and she tries to prioritise those," he said.
"Is Tweed more important than those? It is, in my view, and I rely on the doctors and the growth factors to continue this fight."
NSW HEALTH MINISTER JILLIAN SKINNER'S RESPONSE
"We have committed $48 million to Stage 1 of the Tweed Hospital upgrade and that is what we will deliver.
"Planning continues on the project, with funding allocated in last year's budget.
"Work will commence once planning has finished.
"I have met with members of the Tweed Medical Staff Council many times to discuss the beginning of the upgrade and what services it will include.
"The upgrades to the emergency department, enhancements of wards and specialist units and new parking we promised at the election will be delivered.
"Our record on North Coast health infrastructure speaks for itself.
"In addition to our commitment to the Tweed Hospital, we have committed $5.9 million to build a new ambulance station for Pottsville, we are completing the $80 million Stage 3A redevelopment of Lismore Hospital.
"We will soon begin the $180 million Stage 3B - and we have completed the new $88 million Byron Central Hospital."
Coffs Harbour Hospital: Population in 2021: 80,000
Hospital pledge in 2015: $156 million
Lismore Base Hospital: Population in 2021: 50,000
Hospital pledge in 2015: $180 million
Tweed Hospital: Population in 2021: 100,000
Hospital pledge in 2015: $48 million
THE TWEED'S NEED
ICU - 8 beds
Since 2011, 44% increase in patients and only one extra bed
Surgical - 4 beds
Surgeons operating in half the number of theatres needed to service 8%-year increase in patients
Breast patients transferred to Qld for pre-op tests
No angiography to track internal bleeding.
Palliative - 32 beds
Mental health, dementia and end-of-life patients all in one ward
No palliative specialist doctor
Pediatrics - 12 beds
Since 2002, 55% increase in patients into same 12 beds
Up to nine babies crammed in room for six
Equipment mainly donated by charity
Emergency - 18 beds
Meets targets while treating more patients than St Vincent's
Should have 32 beds; has 18.
Coronary unit - was 7 beds, now 6
Heart failure patients double every two years
Patients forced to leave earlier, with average stay slashed to 4.8
* Figures current as of March 2015