Lismore MP Thomas George and Tweed MP Geoff Provest look at the draft North Coast Regional Plan, as the Tweed Heads is recognised as a regional city for the first time.
Lismore MP Thomas George and Tweed MP Geoff Provest look at the draft North Coast Regional Plan, as the Tweed Heads is recognised as a regional city for the first time. Alina Rylko

Health District blamed for Tweed Hospital funding blunder

TWEED MP Geoff Provest is calling for greater Tweed representation on the Northern NSW Local Health District Board, saying this area is losing out to its counterparts in Lismore and Byron when it comes to hospital funding.

Mr Provest said "questions needed to be asked" over the NNSWLHD's handling of the Tweed Hospital upgrade, following revelations estimated costs of Stage One of the works had almost doubled from $48 million to $80m.

NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner declined to comment on the blow-out but her office confirmed estimates for the 2016-2017 Budget would not be increased to meet the shortfall, despite pleas by the Tweed Medical Staff Council to fully fund the actual costings.

Doctors ready to fight for Tweed Hospital

Mr Provest blamed the NNSWLHD Board, including its chairman Dr Brian Pezzutti "who knows his way around the woodwork", and signed off on the shortfall budget which will not cover the planned oncology, emergency, surgical and renal unit upgrade costs.

"They signed off on it," Mr Provest said.

"I was told by the (health) minister, if they (the board) asked for $70m or $90m, then we would have got that.

"Somebody is at significant fault here. I think our trust has been let down, I honestly do, and I'll go one step short of saying they should be sacked."

Mr Provest called for more Tweed representation on the 12-person board appointed by Mrs Skinner, in which members can hold their position for up to four years.

"Two-thirds of the population it oversees is from Tweed," he said. "Enough's enough. This is where the growth is, and we should have representation."

The Board, through NNSWLHD, declined to respond to the comments or to confirm the cost blowout.

Tweed Hospital Medical Staff Council remain desperate to ensure the plea is met, with chairman Dr Mike Lindley-Jones optimistic "the government will do the right thing" by the Tweed community in the forthcoming State Budget.

"There are signals coming out of Sydney the whole of Stage One will be funded. We are hoping that's how things will pan out," Dr Lindley-Jones said.

"As clinicians, it makes no difference to us if there were mistakes made about costings two years ago or the costings may have changed. We're interested in looking after our patients and we need a proper facility to do that.

 

Tweed Hospital Intensive Care Unit lead Dr Mike Lindley-Jones.
Tweed Hospital Intensive Care Unit lead Dr Mike Lindley-Jones. Alina Rylko

"We don't think the patients of Tweed should suffer because there has been a change in the costing of the budget."

Slashing planned ward expansions wasn't viable, Dr Lindley-Jones said.

"It's hard to see how we can cut down on one area, because everything is interlinked," he said.

Mrs Skinner, will visit Byron Bay on May 9 to open its new $88m hospital.

Lismore Base Hospital is also undergoing a $180m upgrade.

Recruitment for a NNSWLHD chief executive to replace Chris Crawford, who retired in December, is continuing.

THE CAMPAIGN

December 2014: Campaign launched, aiming to pressure the NSW Health Ministry to fund the Tweed Hospital Master Redevelopment Plan valued at $211m.

32 stories revealing the plight of paediatrics, surgery, emergency, intensive care, renal, oncology, coronary care and palliative ward are told.

January 2015: Surgeons reveal they pay for their own wi-fi.

February 2015: NSW Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, NSW Australian Medical Association and the Nurses' union back Tweed doctors

February 2015: NSW Government announces $48 million funding pledge for first stage of the redevelopment.

March 2015: Labor pledges $211 million.

April 2015: Tweed MP Geoff Provest re-elected, but his margin is reduced by 20-points.

March 2016: Tweed announced as North Coast regional city but excludes any mention of Tweed Hospital.

March 2016: Budget blow-out for Stage One of redevelopment, the real cost expected to be closer to $80 million.

May 2016: Doctors urge NSW Health to fund Stage One of upgrade shortfall.



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