'Get the Minister here

By ZOE SATHERLEY

zsatherley@northernstar.com.au

"BUREAUCRATIC bungling is putting lives at risk at Lismore Base Hospital," Shadow Minister for Health Barry O'Farrell has warned.

Mr O'Farrell has called on new State Health Minister John Hatzistergos to urgently travel to Lismore and personally intervene in the crisis.

His call comes hot on the heels of a public meeting held in Lismore on Saturday when vascular surgeon Dr Deepak Williams revealed he had nearly lost the life of three patients in the last three weeks while operating with locum anaesthetists.

The executive of LBH Medical Staff Council confirmed Dr Williams' assessment that surgery was 'dangerous' using locums who were unfamiliar with both the hospital and the operating procedures of specialist surgeons.

They have given the health service until the end of the week to resolve the anaesthetists' dispute or else they will cease all surgery except where a patient's life is in immediate danger.

However Chris Crawford, North Coast Area Health Service chief executive, yesterday said patients requiring surgery at LBH can be assured that the anaesthesia they receive will be of the highest standard, whether administered by staff anaesthetists or locums.

"Locums have been engaged regularly by LBH and hospitals around Australia for many years when necessary to cover the anaesthetic roster," he said.

"These locums are sourced from reputable locum agencies, they are properly appointed and credentialled, are members of the Australian and NZ College of Anaesthetists and their references are closely checked.

"The appointments are assessed by the LBH director of medical services and the staff specialist anaesthetist.

"It would be incorrect to suggest that patients are exposed to unacceptable risk because of the engagement of locum specialists.

"No serious adverse incident attributed to the practices of a locum anaesthetist engaged during the contract negotiations with LBH's anaesthetists has been reported through the Incident Information Management System."

But Mr O'Farrell isn't satisfied.

"John Hatzistergos has to do what Morris Iemma failed to do," he said.

"He has to jump on a plane and meet with doctors in Lismore who have walked away from the public system, or are about to.

"Morris Iemma allowed the current dispute to reach crisis point because he refused to get involved and left negotiations in the hands of incompetent bureaucrats.

"John Hatzistergos would be best served by realising the health bureaucracy cannot be re- lied upon or trusted."



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