Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord has called on Health Minister Brad Hazzard to intervene in the South East Regional (Bega) Hospital orthopaedic surgery crisis and criticised the state government’s “wall of silence”.
“Make no mistake, there is a crisis at South East Regional Hospital in Bega. It is time for the Health Minister to intervene. He can no longer sit on the sidelines,” Mr Secord said.
Mr Secord said Mr Hazzard was quick to inject himself into health issues on the North Coast in mid-February, but for some reason, he was resisting becoming involved in the growing crisis at Bega.
Mr Secord demanded that Mr Hazzard resolve the surgery crisis at South East Regional Hospital – saying that there were now only two surgeons at the hospital – when staff say that at least four are needed.
Mr Secord said there was a total lack of information flowing to patients, who were waiting for surgery.
“Make no mistake, there is a crisis at South East Regional Hospital in Bega.
Yesterday (February 28) was the last day of employment of prominent orthopaedic surgeon – Dr Chris Phoon, who was entering his fourth year of service to the region. His contract was not renewed.
Mr Secord said there was one question on everyone’s lips: “Who is going to do orthopaedic surgery in Bega?”
Furthermore, Mr Secord said patients have a right to know: What is the status of their planned procedure? Who their surgeon will be? And will it actually occur?
While Mr Secord cautiously welcomed the review into orthopaedic services at South East Regional Hospital and its decision by the government not to renew Dr Chris Phoon’s contract, he questioned how long the review would take. (The review was announced on February 27.)
Mr Secord said despite the opening of a new hospital at Bega, elective surgery lists have lengthened and emergency department waits had increased at the hospital.
As of September 30, there were 802 patients waiting for elective surgery; of those 480 were orthopaedic patients. In addition, 30.9 per cent of patients waited longer than four hours at the emergency department compared to 17 per cent a year ago.
In addition, Mr Secord said he discovered that there was widespread unhappiness amongst the doctors, nurses and allied health professionals at South East Regional Hospital.
“While the state government and the Southern NSW Local Health District bicker, patients suffer,” Mr Secord said.