PATIENT ANGER AT CANCER UNIT
By EMMA O'NEILL
NOELLE GRAY knew she'd feel tired during her cancer treatment at Lismore Base Hospital.
But the 70-year-old Coraki woman never expected to feel angry.
During her five-hour blood transfusion for leukaemia on July 26, Noelle became distressed as the cancer care unit at the hospital reached capacity.
Noelle arrived for treatment just after 8am, early enough to be given a comfortable reclining chair to receive her transfusion.
Not every patient was so lucky. From her recliner, Noelle watched the facility fill up. Patients were spread around taking up every space. Then two more female patients arrived for treatment. There was no more room.
Noelle watched with anger as two chairs and a table were dragged from another room to create a makeshift treatment unit for them.
"The chairs were set up in front of where the nurses keep their equipment. I was so angry that the nurses had to put up with this and had to keep walking around the women to get things from the drawers," she said.
Noelle said that when she asked a nurse if it was common for the room to be so busy, the nurse replied it was.
Executive officer of Lismore Base Hospital, Dan Madden, said the unit's seven chairs and three beds are usually enough to treat patients, but when the unit was busy it was sometimes necessary to bring in extra treatment chairs which can create some crowding.
Executive member of the Medical Staff Council at Lismore Base Hospital, Dr Chris Ingall has seen the consequences of hospital over-crowding.
Elective surgery was cancelled on Monday and Thursday this week because of the large number of patients needing immediate attention.
Dr Ingall added that overcrowding increases health risks. "If patients are packed into a room and in coughing distance of each other, they could pass on diseases," he said.
A new cancer centre is planned for Lismore Base Hospital as part of stage two of the hospital's redevelopment. It is expected to open in 2011.
But four years is too long to wait for such services according to the president of Regional Community Watch, Marshall Fittler.
"The fact we have staff and patients dealing with these conditions demonstrates the need to fast-track stage two," he said
Noelle Gray's next cancer treatment is booked at the Lismore Base Hospital Cancer Care Unit in September. She hopes next time the nurses won't be so rushed off their feet.