Surge policy sparks doctors' revolt

EMERGENCY doctors at Lismore Base Hospital will refuse to send patients into community-based care under the North Coast Area Health Service’s controversial new surge beds policy, doctors have warned.

Hospital Medical Staff Council spokesman Dr Chris Ingall yesterday said emergency department doctors, who are expected to use the x reclassified surge beds during times of high demand, were not formally told of the plan until last week.

“They say they will not send people out (to community-based care) unless they can see the community nurses out there saying ‘pick me, I can do it and care for them as well as they can in the hospital’,” Dr Ingall said.

The growth in community-based care is an essential component in the surge bed plan, with the health service trying to reduce demand on all its hospitals by having some categories of patients treated at home.

Health service chief executive Chris Crawford has said the ‘hospital in the home’ program would free-up beds within the hospitals, some of which would be reserved as surge beds for periods of high demand.

Yesterday Mr Crawford said concerns raised by doctors were similar to those raised early this month by the NSW Nurses’ Association.

“It is important to note the beds are not to be closed and would be managed according to current demand and the proper use of alternate services,” he said. “They would be available at all times, using additional rostered nursing staff.

“Already, where these alternative care models are in place, they are having an impact on the number of mild and chronic patients using hospital beds.”

Dr Ingall said doctors supported the idea of patients being treated at home, where possible, and would welcome the surge beds if they were new beds introduced to the region’s hospitals.

But the Medical Staff Council had taken a close look at the strategy proposed by the NCAHS and believed it would erode medical services across the region, he said.

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