Night service closed due to little use

NORTHERN NSW Local Health District closed night emergency services at Bonalbo hospital because no-one was using them, health service chief executive Chris Crawford has a said.

In a response to a statement released today by Page MP Janelle Saffin slamming the health service for its treatment of the Bonalbo and Coraki communities, Mr Crawford has said the Bonalbo night service would be restored as soon as the health service could find a doctor to staff it.

However, Mr Crawford's response steered clear of the Coraki hospital issue.

See the full statement below:

"As patients have not been attending the Bonalbo Hospital during the night, the Night Nursing Shift was temporarily discontinued from 23 April 2012," the NNSW LHD Chief Executive said today.

"The Night Nursing Shift will be restored once a Medical Officer(s), who will provide sufficient on-call to the Hospital, to allow it to again admit patients, is recruited to work and live in Bonalbo."

"At present, despite the efforts of NNSW LHD and the Northern Rivers General Practice Network, no Medical Officer has been recruited to relocate to work and live in Bonalbo."

"The NNSW LHD continued to provide the Night Nursing Shift for over three months, since Dr Tierney's retirement."

"The Night Nursing Shift was retained despite there being no Hospital inpatients requiring care, in the hope that a new Medical Officer would be recruited in that period and to see if there was a demand for non-inpatient care during the night time."

"There has been little use made of the Bonalbo Hospital at night by patients over the past three and a half months, which is consistent with the patient hospital utilisation pattern at most small hospitals the size of Bonalbo Hospital.  During February and March 2012, only two patients who required treatment on the night shift attended the Hospital between 11.00pm and 7.00am."

Should a Bonalbo resident require urgent treatment at night, then "000" should be called to contact the Ambulance Service, which would task the Bonalbo Ambulance to attend and provide care and in the unusual event that the Bonalbo Ambulance is not available in the middle of the night, would task the Urbenville Ambulance to attend and provide care.  Should the Ambulance Officers determine it is necessary they would take the patient to Casino Hospital, where medical care would be provided.

"The claim that there was no community consultation about the decision to temporarily suspend the Nursing Night Shift at Bonalbo Hospital is incorrect, as a two hour meeting to discuss the change was held between Local Health Network and Community representatives on 22 March 2012."

"While the Community does not support the change, no arguments were advanced by Community members that persuaded the NNSW LHD that the change is not justified."

"A detailed procedure has been developed for closure of Bonalbo Hospital at 11.00pm and its reopening at 7.00am."

"This procedure sets out practices that need to be followed to ensure the security of Staff."

"As well, the procedures set out how the 'drug key' will be dealt with in accordance with advice received from the Ministry of Health Pharmaceutical Services Branch."

"Due to the alternative helipad only having been required on very few occasions in the last ten years, special arrangements will be made in the event that it appears likely that the usual helipad will be flooded over any night."

"NNSW LHD has also arranged for the key Health Service phone numbers to be provided to Bonalbo residents, so that they can contact a variety of health care providers during the night period should that be necessary (attached).

"Other Hospital and Community Services will continue to be provided to the Bonalbo residents."

"These other services include two Bonalbo Hospital Nurses on duty from 7.00am to 11.00pm seven days per week, a Medical Officer providing Emergency and General Practice services from approximately 9.00am to 5.00pm five-six days per week and the continuing range of Community Health Services."

"The NNSW LHD has removed the Night Nursing Shift because it cannot justify operating the most expensive Nursing Shift of the day, when there is little patient care to be provided," Mr Crawford said.

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