Deadline set to end surgery deadlock


A DEADLOCK that has stopped all but life-saving surgery at Lismore Base Hospital will be over within a fortnight, the North Coast Area Health Service has promised.

Health service chief executive Chris Crawford yesterday offered concessions on working conditions to anaesthetists if they returned to work and promised to fill surgery lists for the surgeons.

If the anaesthetists reject the offer, Mr Crawford said the health service would use locum anaesthetists to get surgeons back to work.

The offer did not include the major issue of how much money the anaesthetists would earn within the public system.

But Mr Crawford said it conceded three key working condition issues which anaesthetists had demanded, saying they were needed to improve patient safety and fairness.

Those concessions included:

nA new co-ordinating anaesthe- tists position;

nIntroducing set hours for an- aesthetists' evening shifts; and

nImproved access to education and training for anaesthetists.

Mr Crawford said the offer left the contentious pay issue for the Health Department and the Australian Medical Association to sort out in negotiations expected to start next year.

He said there would also be changes to elective surgery, with surgeons guaranteed a set number of elective operations each year and letting them reschedule procedures that had to be delayed in emergencies.

If the anaesthetists rejected the offer, the health service would use locums until they could be replaced.

Either way, elective surgery would be back in full swing by August 15.

Mr Crawford said the offers had been faxed or hand delivered to Lismore's doctors yesterday.

However, staff at the anaesthetists' base, Clover House, said that by last night only one anaesthetist had seen the offer.

Lismore Base Hospital Medical Staff Council chair Dr Chris Ingall said the anaesthetists and the surgeons would respond to the offer at a public meeting to be held in Lismore City Hall from 2-4pm tomorrow.

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