People could die
By ZOE SATHERLEY
THE crisis affecting Lismore Base Hospital will soon start costing lives, vascular surgeon Dr Deepak Williams has warned.
Choking back the tears at Saturday's health crisis public meeting, Dr Williams described how he has nearly lost the lives of three patients in recent weeks while operating with locum anaesthetists. He says locums don't understand his operating procedures.
An emotional Dr Williams told more than 300 people at the meeting at Lismore City Hall that current operating conditions were 'dangerous'.
The meeting had previously heard an impassioned plea for compromise by Lismore Mayor Merv King, who had cancelled an important prior engagement to be there.
In a rare display of fire, Cr King urged both sides in the dispute to sit down and work out a solution to stop unnecessary patient suffering and to save the possible downgrading of Lismore Base Hospital.
Anaesthetists and specialists are fighting for more beds, more surgery, more equipment and better working conditions. They seemed clearly moved by the public support they were receiving and resolved to do all in their power to meet the health service half way.
For his part, North Coast Area Health Service chief executive Chris Crawford showed indications he was prepared to be more flexible in dealing with the anaesthetists who have walked off the job over a long-standing pay and conditions dispute.
He also announced that more money was being found for equipment and to increase the amount of surgery being done at the Base.
But the Medical Staff Council (MSC) executive said yesterday they hoped Mr Crawford moved quickly and in good faith, or else there would be a mass exodus of specialists from the health system within days.
They agree with Dr Williams that undertaking surgery under present conditions is putting patient lives at risk and say specialists fear legal ramifications if a patient dies.
"The situation is just too dangerous," MSC secretary Dr William James said.
"It's only a matter of days before everyone walks out.
"The anaesthetists are prepared to compromise and work for half of the rate paid to locums while their tender to provide an anaesthetic service to the hospital is reviewed."
At the end of the meeting it was resolved that a delegation of medical staff and community members would seek an urgent conference with new Health Minister John Hatzistergos.
Dr Deepak Williams told the meeting on Saturday he would rather leave Lismore than lose a patient and be given the label 'Dr Death'.