THE Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District has refuted claims the long-standing arrangement between Wollongong and Shoalhaven hospitals, where orthopaedic surgeons treat fracture and trauma patients from the Shoalhaven, had ended.
Earlier in the week, Shoalhaven Hospital head of surgery Professor Martin Jones said “Shoalhaven Hospital was broken” .
Professor Jones said the cancellation of elective surgery, a continuation of the chronic bed shortage and the unilateral decision of the many orthopaedic surgeons at Wollongong hospital to not look after fracture and trauma patients from the Shoalhaven would pose even more impact on the already stretched resources at Nowra.
ISLHD Executive Director Clinical Operations Margaret Martin said there was no impediment to access to Wollongong Hospital.
“The fact is, Wollongong is experiencing its own increase in demand for orthopaedic surgery so to prevent unnecessary transfers, travel and wait times for Shoalhaven patients and families, additional orthopaedic resources have been deployed to the Shoalhaven,” she said.
“They provide additional local capacity after-hours, but importantly, a senior specialist delivers early clinical input and care for Shoalhaven locals who may or may not require surgery.
There are no impediment to access to Wollongong Hospital. The long-standing arrangement between Wollongong and Shoalhaven hospitals, where orthopaedic surgeons treat fracture and trauma patients from the Shoalhaven haven’t ended.Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District Executive Director Clinical Operations Margaret Martin
“The earlier this happens, the sooner patients can commence their recovery and often without the need to travel to Wollongong unnecessarily, especially if surgery is not required.”
Ms Martin said it was important to recognise Wollongong was the region’s speciality referral hospital, therefore treated the most complex cases from right across the Illawarra and Shoalhaven.
“The most serious are treated as a priority, regardless of their postcode,” she said.
“Every single resident of the district is important and we work very hard to deliver a balanced service that’s equitable for all.
Elective surgery cancelled, chronic bed shortage, increased number at South Coast jail and no hospitals at local navy bases, cancellation of fracture and trauma treatment at Shoalhaven Hospital and a tsunami of economic refugees heading from Sydney and Wollongong has put the hospital system under terminal stress.Shoalhaven Hospital head of surgery Professor Martin Jones
“I’m keen to reassure the residents of the Shoalhaven that surgical services continue, referrals and transfers continue where necessary and we continue to encourage all staff to work collaboratively to ensure the best possible service and outcomes for the communities of the Illawarra and Shoalhaven.”
Ms Martin said almost 200 procedures were performed last week (Monday, February 25 to Monday, March 4) at Shoalhaven Hospital including almost 100 elective surgeries, dozens of emergency surgeries and around 60 endoscopies.
“We try very hard to prevent patients being rescheduled for their surgery, however sometimes due to higher than expected emergency demand this is unfortunately required,” she said.
“During this time nine patients out of nearly 200 had to be rescheduled due to the high bed demand.
Wollongong is experiencing its own increase in demand for orthopaedic surgery so to prevent unnecessary transfers, travel and wait times for Shoalhaven patients and families,Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District Executive Director Clinical Operations Margaret Martin
“We acknowledge every cancellation has an impact and we will aim to reschedule these patients as soon as possible.”
Professor Jones tells a different story. In a letter to the South Coast Register, he said elective surgery had been cancelled three days out of the last five, with day only patients allowed to be treated in theatre.
He said the opening of six extra over census beds and the removal of six beds from the theatre recovery area, had done nothing to alleviate the bed shortage, in fact led to a shortage of recovery beds for operating theatres, meaning patients were being woken up in theatre instead of the specialised recovery area.
“The new standard of two recovery beds per operating theatre, means we are five beds short,” he said “which has a direct effect on the function on the theatre.“
The most serious are treated as a priority, regardless of their postcode.Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District Executive Director Clinical Operations Margaret Martin
He pointed to increased numbers at the South Coast Correctional Centre, the failure of both local naval bases no longer having hospitals and a “tsunami of economic refugees heading from Sydney and Wollongong” had put the hospital system “under terminal stress”.
Professor Jones acknowledge administration’s move to provide one more junior doctor and the use of two senior orthopaedic surgeons on a roster with the two local surgeons on call each weekend but said the offer did not come with any extra theatre time, nurses, anaesthetists, wards staff, beds or radiographers.