Govt may fast-track upgrade of hospital
By ZOE SATHERLEY
NSW HEALTH Minister John Hatzistergos yesterday gave a glimmer of hope that Lismore Base Hospital's (LBH) long planned redevelopment could be completed within six years.
Previously, hospital specialists had feared a wait of 10 to 15 years.
He also promised that by June next year all patients who have been waiting more than 12 months for surgery will have had their operations ? including knee and hip replacements.
State Member for Lismore, Thomas George, was on the delegation that met the Minister.
He said the Minister told them that the earliest possible completion date for both stage 2 (the cancer care unit) and stage 3 (operating theatres, surgical wards, intensive care unit) was 2011 ? if funding is allocated.
Mr Hatzistergos said he was unable to give any firm assurances on stage 3 funding.
However, he said while the State's budget for next year was already almost completely allocated, stage 3 could be brought forward for capital funding in 2007-2008.
Funding for stage 1 (new mental health unit) and stage 2 has already been approved.
North Coast Area Health Service chief executive Chris Crawford said first stage plans for both stage 2 and stage 3 were now completed and these would be forwarded to the Department of Health 'before Christmas' for approval.
The executive of the LBH Medical Staff Council (MSC) were also on the delegation, as were State Member for Ballina Don Page, community representatives Marshall Fittler and Marilyn Perkins, and Lismore Cr John Hampton.
The MSC delegates told the Minister that LBH desperately needed improved health services.
They said they wanted the hospital project fast-tracked and asked if stage 2 and stage 3 could proceed together.
"We were pleased that the Minister was willing to look at ways of amalgamating some aspects of stage 2 and stage 3," Dr Chris Ingall said.
Asked if he thought LBH was operating at a dangerous level because it was frequently at 100 per cent capacity, the Minister replied that bed access figures had recently improved.
"Access block figures are down and are better than the State average and waiting lists are also down," he said.
Dr Ingall said this improvement was due to Mullumbimby and Byron patients being routinely transferred north to Tweed Hospital, while those in Yamba and Maclean were being sent to Grafton and Coffs Harbour.
Patients were not happy with this situation, Dr Ingall said.