Health Minister snubs star

By ZOE SATHERLEY

LISMORE Base Hospital was again at breaking point yesterday with elective surgery cancelled at short notice and, for the first time, day surgery also cancelled.

Things were so dire that patients from the emergency department spilled over into an area dedicated to patients getting ready to enter the operating theatre.

Yet, in the face of the continuing crisis, Health Minister John Hatzistergos has refused an interview with The Northern Star.

He has said The Star is not welcome at Friday's health crisis meeting with medical and community representatives, and has repeatedly referred our questions back to the North Coast Area Health Service.

Mr Hatzistergos has refused to see us either before or after his meeting with the delegation, despite giving an earlier assurance to Ballina MP Don Page that he would be happy to do the interview.

Mr Page and Lismore MP Thomas George will lead the delegation. Also going are Lismore mayor Merv King, Medical Staff Council chairman Dr Rob Simon and secretary Dr William James, and a community representative yet to be named.

"We are all terribly distraught over the situation at the hospital. But what is happening today is a common occurrence," Dr Simon said yesterday.

"Promises, promises, promises, that's all we ever get from the health service.

"But nothing changes. This is why our specialists are leaving the area.

"Our doctors are both furious and upset that once more their patients must suffer because the health service is so under-resourced it can't provide hospital beds for them.

"And day surgery doesn't even require overnight beds, yet for the first time that I can recall it was cancelled.

"The anaesthetists have come back pending a long-term resolution to their dispute, the surgeons have come back, but there are no beds for the patients.

"This is a totally unacceptable way to run a health service."

The key issues to be raised with Mr Hatzistergos on Friday will be calling for immediate funding for the proposed LBH $100m redevelopment, getting the $30-$35m annual regional funding shortfall immediately redressed, and gaining a commitment to do what it takes to recruit and retain rural



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