Lismore Base is worse than Sydney

By Alex Easton

OVERCROWDING at Lismore Base Hospital is worse than Sydney's now-infamous Royal North Shore Hospital, with doctors warning a bed shortage is putting patients at risk.

Leaked figures show many wards ran at more than 90 per cent capacity between January and August this year, while the birthing suite ran at between 220 per cent and 260 per cent, compared with an accepted 85 per cent benchmark for safe operation.

The figures show the LBH surgical, medical, maternity and orthopaedic/rehabilitation wards all ran consistently at more than 90 per cent full between January and August.

Australasian College for Emergency Medicine president Dr Andrew Singer and NSW AMA president Andrew Keegan said LBH's figures were similar to those at the Royal North Shore Hospital, except that LBH did not have the Sydney hospital's ability to redirect emergency patients when it was full.

A State Parliamentary inquiry is currently being undertaken into Royal North Shore after a woman miscarried in a hospital toilet.

However, a spokesperson for NSW Health Minister Reba Meagher yesterday said LBH was safe and there was no benchmark linking safety to occupancy rates. The spokeswoman said the leaked figures were misleading and the birthing suite numbers were skewed because one bed might be used by several women to give birth during a single day.

Dr Singer also questioned the birthing suite figures, saying any suite running such numbers would collapse.

However, Dr Chris Ingall, of the LBH's Medical Staff Council, and Helen O'Donnell, of the NSW Nurses' Association, said the birthing suite numbers were correct.

Anaesthetist David Scott said a combination of the bed shortages, under-funding and tight staffing meant some surgical patients were being forced to wait days for surgery. Those delays increased the risk of serious complications such as pneumonia and potentially fatal blood clots.

Ms Meagher's spokeswoman said the LBH would be monitored 'in the context of statewide health infrastructure priorities'.



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