Fears for local paediatric services

Despite being built more than two decades ago, the special care nursery at Shoalhaven Hospital remains understaffed and under-resourced.

Despite being built more than two decades ago, the special care nursery at Shoalhaven Hospital remains understaffed and under-resourced.

THE special care nursery at Shoalhaven hospital has been under-funded and under-staffed despite being built more than 20 years ago.

The revelation came on the back of an announcement this week in Nowra of a proposal by the Kidzfix charity and Newborn Emergency Transport Service (NETS) to raise funds for a specialist ambulance service for newborns and children.

Shoalhaven paediatricians Toby Greenacre and Mark de Souza told a breakfast meeting of local business people the transport service could be used to further erode paediatric services at the hospital and force parents of sick newborns to travel to hospitals in Sydney.

South Coast MP Shelley Hancock was concerned to learn of the fear held by local health professionals.

“I support the idea of fund-raising for a specially equipped ambulance for children but we need to form a committee that looks at the whole plan and involves paediatricians.

“But we also need to prevent any downgrading of the current services.”

Mrs Hancock said she would organise a meeting with Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District Board chairman Professor Denis King to discuss the special ambulance proposal, and to investigate the funding and use of the special care nursery at Shoalhaven Hospital.

The Register has been told an independent review into the special care nursery at Shoalhaven was conducted last year but had not been released to the NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner.

Kiama MP Gareth Ward has called for the report to be made public.

"I understand the report was completed some time ago and will be considered at the next board meeting of the ISLHDS.

"The public deserves to know what is in the report."

Mr Ward said recruitment had begun for a third paediatrician to work at the hospital.

A spokesperson from the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District said it was chief executive (CE) Sue Browbank who called for the external review of the special care nursery at Shoalhaven Hospital.

However the spokesperson would not comment on where the report is now or why its findings had not been made public.

“The CE also sought the advice of the District’s chief Paediatrician and the region’s Professor of Paediatrics, in developing a model of care to build on existing paediatric services at Shoalhaven,” the spokesperson said.

 “They are now working with the Hospital executive to implement the model which will better link the Children’s Ward and the Special Care Nursery.

“All of the paediatricians at Shoalhaven are involved in the process.

 “It must be said that new model will actually increase paediatric services at Shoalhaven with approval now being finalised for the future appointment of an additional paediatrician as well as additional junior paediatric doctors.”

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