RECOVERING: Katrina Alexander, of Lismore, at home following surgery for the removal of a tumour.
RECOVERING: Katrina Alexander, of Lismore, at home following surgery for the removal of a tumour.

Lismore Base at breaking point


KATRINA Alexander is a classic case of what is wrong with Lismore Base Hospital, according to nine doctors speaking out for the first time.

They say one in four patients had their elective surgery cancelled last month ? predicting worse is to come for patients referred from Grafton to Tweed Heads.

"People don't know what chaos the health system is in. It is crumbling. Lismore Base Hospital is operating at beyond breaking point," said Dr Geoff Truman, a gynaecologist and obstetrician who operates at the hospital ? and who is Katrina Alexander's doctor.

Ms Alexander, 34, a human resources manager, of Lismore, had a growing tumour almost as big as a football in her uterus, and she faced the possibility of losing her womb before having had any children.

However, the hospital sent her home on the morning her gynaecological surgery was scheduled. She said she was told there was no bed for her.

In one week, 15 patients who were waiting for surgery had their operations cancelled as well, said Dr William James, secretary of the Medical Staff Council at the hospital.

Katrina and her partner had already taken time off work. Her parents had both also taken time off work and had flown up from Sydney to support them.

"I was in shock," she said.

"Apart from the general disruption to everyone's lives, the loss of income, the cost to my parents and partner, the embarrassment of having to return to work after a big emotional send-off, it was the fear of the impact on my health that upset me most.

"An ultrasound found it to be as big as a football and I looked pregnant.

"In the end my doctor was fantastic. He was so concerned about my health outcomes that he squeezed me on to his surgery list early one morning before he was scheduled to start operating."

The nine senior doctors who have gone public about conditions at LBH are speaking on behalf of the Medical Staff Council (MSC) ?- about 150 medical and surgical specialists and general practitioners who provide services at the hospital.

The doctors are all concerned for the health and welfare of their patients and feel something must be done now before there is a medical catastrophe.

They are: Dr Austin Curtin, senior surgeon; Dr Richard Hudson, orthopaedic surgeon; Dr Chris Ingall, paediatrician and deputy chair of the Medical Staff Council; Dr William James, kidney specialist and MSC secretary; Dr David Sillar, urologist and chairman Richmond Valley Surgical Services Committee; Dr Rob Simon, general surgeon and MSC chairman; Dr David Townend, senior surgeon; Dr Geoff Truman, gynaecologist/obstetrician; and Dr Deepak Williams, vascular surgeon.

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