SENIOR Tweed Hospital clinicians have slammed NSW Health for denying an urgent plea for infrastructure at the hospital for more than a year.
The plea was in the Tweed Heads Hospital Redevelopment Master Plan, signed off by the Northern NSW Local Health District Board in December 2013 and submitted to Health Minister Jillian Skinner.
It outlined $211.6 million was needed for expansions to the intensive care unit, emergency department, oncology services, maternity wards and mental health services.
Stage one of the three-part expansion was to be completed by 2017, but doctors fear that with no funding approved, building is unlikely to commence.
The Chair of the Medical Staff Council, Dr Ian McPhee, said "urgent requirements of the Clinical Services Plan" must be addressed by the ministry.
"Planning was a well-rounded, scientific, clinician-led exercise.
"The master plan was fiscally and socially responsible through a staged investment process," Dr McPhee said.
"In fact, the priorities set out in the master plan are becoming outdated, because we have waited so long," he said.
"In the face of rapidly increasing demand in the Tweed Hospital, a response is required urgently.
"Until then, every single department will be stretched to its limits in different ways, and the community needs to be aware of how compromised we have been."
In the orthopedic department, senior surgeon Doug Turner said patients had suffered with debilitating pain while on a waiting list for elective surgery such as knee and hip replacement for up to two years, even though the wait was supposed to be only a year.
"Under government instruction, the waiting list for elective surgery is no more than one year.
"But you need to see a surgeon before the operation, for which you will have to go on another waiting list which can take about a year.
"Certainly that is breaking the spirit of the agreement.
"People are crying at night with pain, and that comes under the definition of what the government labels as 'elective'.
"The reality is that every second person is on a waiting list, and if we only did the crying ones we'd never get the others done."
Clinicians like Dr Turner believe Tweed Hospital's proximity to the Queensland border has contributed to the health crisis because the ministry knows Tweed patients rely on the Brisbane Mater, Robina and Gold Coast hospitals.
"Many in the Ministry of Health have spuriously observed that the overflow will be taken care of at the Gold Coast Hospital, but it's already overloaded and it's unfair on this community that a Gold Coast-based service should be picking up any slack," Dr Turner said.
Lobbying for the maternity ward to stop accepting birth bookings from Queenslanders is under consideration.
BOTH PARTIES 'STONEWALL'
THE Northern NSW Local Health District (NNLHD) determines what capital works are required in Northern NSW hospitals and the reality is that many hospitals are struggling for priority within that system.
Ahead of The Tweed Hospital, the NSW Government is undertaking a major redevelopment of Lismore Hospital and a new hospital is being built at Byron Bay.
The NNLHD's board chair Dr Brian Pezzutti said he would continue to represent Tweed clinicians in their fight for funding.
However both State Member for Tweed Geoff Provest and the NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner shied away from any dollar figure commitment to the Tweed Heads Hospital redevelopment master plan when the Tweed Daily News put the doctors' concerns to them.
Ms Skinner said redevelopment would not "happen overnight" and that "... It is incumbent on hospital management and staff to determine the models of care needed to treat patients until the redevelopment is complete".
Ms Skinner blamed the former Labor government for the poor state of the hospital.
"I understand the concerns of clinicians - they mirror those of staff at regional hospitals across NSW which were neglected by Labor for 16 years," she said.
However, senior orthopedic surgeon Doug Turner said that in his 30 years at the Tweed Hospital neither Liberal nor Labor had ever given it priority.
"For every major development, the government, whether Labor or Liberal, have always stonewalled and delayed it for as long as possible and every one of them has required an active campaign by the doctors at the hospital to get it over the line," Dr Turner said.
State member for Tweed Geoff Provest was happy with what he'd achieved for the Tweed Hospital so far, including the dental training hospital, an increase in pathology services, car parking and an MRI scanning machine.
"The Tweed Master Plan is likely to happen over the next 10-15 years," Mr Provest said.
Chair of the Medical Staff Council, Dr Ian McPhee, said he was shocked with the response from the Liberal/ National party members.
"We have completely lost our faith in Mr Provest's ability to lobby for the Tweed Hospital," he said.
Clinicians wish list:
The ED is expanded by 120%
Medical Imaging is expanded by 110%
Medical records space to double
Chemo and radiotherapy integrated into one Cancer Care Centre
Pharmacy increased by 110%.
Increase operating theatres from 4 to 8
Birthing expansion with special care nursery