Hospital chaos summit tonight
By Zoe Satherley
Russell Hollyman hopes tonight's crisis talks ? on the 50 specialists who are threatening a mass exodus from local hospitals ? will help him to dance again.
The Lismore Base Hospital Medical Staff Council executive will meet the North Coast Area Health Service over claims that a massive funding shortfall by the State Government has thrown the hospital into chaos.
Russell, 77, a retired Lismore plumber, has been waiting nearly two years for knee replacement surgery.
He and his wife of 37 years, Wilma, 73, love to dance and it breaks their heart they can't take to the dance floor together any more.
"Wilma just dances around the lounge room while I sit and watch," Russell said.
"It is frustrating when you have been active all of your life and all you can do is sit around in pain, waiting and praying that you'll get to the top of the list before it's too late."
All elective surgery has been cancelled at the Base, as well as at all other Richmond Valley hospitals, because of two major disputes with specialists and anaesthetists.
Sixteen anaesthetists have left the public health system and about 50 specialists have threatened to join them.
The executive of the LBH Medical Staff Council (MSC) will meet North Coast Area Health Service (NCAHS) chief executive Chris Crawford for crisis talks tonight.
Mr Crawford said the doctors' concerns were being taken seriously and that he did not expect a large number of doctors to leave the hospital.
He hoped the present negotiations would produce a mutually acceptable resolution to issues of concern.
The Medical Staff Council has said a major issue facing doctors and their patients is the continual cancellation of surgery because the hospital's budget is massively inadequate.
The MSC has been given Health Department figures which show that under the State Government's own funding allocation formula ? the Resource Distribution Formula (RDF) ? the North Coast Area Health Service is missing out on about $30 million annually.
Of that, $5 million each year should be coming directly to LBH, the executive say.
Vice-chairman of the MSC, Dr Chris Ingall, said the budget allocation was not enough to pay for the amount of operating time, equipment and services the hospital requires.
Mr Crawford has responded with figures showing that LBH has had 49 per cent growth funding since 2001, an increase of $27.57m.
However, as detailed in Saturday's Northern Star, many doctors believe the continual closure of operating theatres because of budget restrictions is leading to adverse patient health outcomes and patient trauma.
Russell Hollyman agrees.
As he waits for news on when he will get his knee operation, he is more likely to suffer a serious fall and other health complications which may even further delay his surgery and compromise his recovery, he said.
"As a plumber for 45 years I have always been very fit," he said.
"I've also been very much into sport, playing rugby, hockey and tennis in my younger years, and swimming and bushwalking later on.
"But dancing is something I really love.
"Wilma is very upset I can't go dancing with her any more. It's just something we have always loved to do.
"The last time I tried to dance with her my knee gave way and I collapsed on the floor.
"What upsets me is that what I have got can be fixed pretty simply.
"But I've just got to sit around and wait. I can't lead any kind of normal life.
"Wilma and I can't even walk on the beach together. The pain can be pretty shocking.
"I've never felt my age be- fore but now I feel about 90."