Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health chief executive Margot Mains has disputed Labor claims Shoalhaven District Hospital is under resourced and under pressure.
Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare, Catherine King was in Nowra earlier in the week with Gilmore Labor candidate Fiona Phillips, meeting with staff over concerns at the hospital.
They claim staff are ringing some “very serious alarm bells about the lack of investment at Shoalhaven Hospital and are concerned it it compromising patient care”.
Health is shaping up as one of the key issues ahead of the next federal election with the Labor Party saying it would reinvest $2.8 billion nationally into the public hospital system, through its Better Hospitals Fund.
Ms Mains says there has been significant capital expenditure at Shoalhaven Hospital of more than $50 million in the last four to five years.
“That includes a $41m investment in the hospital campus in 2013/14 which included construction of the Shoalhaven Cancer Care Centre and the purpose-built Shoalhaven Sub-Acute Mental Health Unit,” she said.
“There has been a $1.5m for a dedicated Endoscopy Suite to improve access to endoscopy services; $1.8m Emergency Department reconfiguration and expansion; $1.35 million for refurbishment of Medical Ward B to create a purpose-designed dedicated Aged Care Unit; and $5.5 million for the purchase of equipment including a second linear accelerator for the Shoalhaven Cancer Care Centre.
The Local Health District has identified a major redevelopment and expansion of the Shoalhaven Hospital as a key future priority for the region.Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health chief executive Margot Mains.
“Further, construction of the $10 million Shoalhaven Hospital car park project is due to start shortly, which will include a new multi-storey car park and new ground level parking, significantly increasing capacity to meet the current and future demand for car parking at this hospital.”
She said additional funding had been allocated to Shoalhaven Hospital’s operational budget this financial year.
“In 2017/18 the budget for Shoalhaven Hospital was $134.2 million - an increase of almost $12 million on the previous year,” she said.
Labor claims the hospital staff don’t have the resources needed to provide proper care, stop bedblock and the recent cancellation of a number of elective surgeries because there was simply no beds for patients.
“We will aim to provide more beds, bring down emergency department and elective surgery waiting times at Shoalhaven Hospital through our Better Hospitals Fund,” Ms King said.
She also said staff had noted a marked increase in presentation to the emergency department to around 160 a day and believed they were not able to treat people within good clinical guidelines in the ED.
Ms Mains said the latest Bureau of Health Information Quarterly Report (October–December 2017) showed there were more than 10,160 presentations to the Shoalhaven Hospital Emergency Department – an increase of 1.1 per cent on the same quarter the previous year.
“That is lower than the state average increase,” she said.
“There was also a 5.7 per cent increase in the number of elective surgery procedures performed in the quarter when compared to the same period the previous year.
“The ED team is delivering improvements in the number of patients being treated on time and for those arriving by ambulance transfer of care improved significantly by 11.2 percentage points.”
She said between June 2012 and June 2017 the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District recruited more than 870 additional staff across the district, including 160 more doctors, 355 more nurses and more than 100 allied health staff.
“The Local Health District has identified a major redevelopment and expansion of the Shoalhaven Hospital as a key future priority for the region,” Ms Mains said.
“As part of usual planning processes, the LHD has considered service demand to 2027.
“As per standard local consultation processes, the LHD will be seeking feedback from the community.”