In his words: Health boss hits back at cost cutting claims

I WRITE to refute the allegations made on Page 4 of the September 25 edition of The Northern Star (No doctor a 'saving strategy') which claimed that the lack of rostering of a medical officer on the night shift (11pm -7am) at Ballina District Hospital emergency department from September 19-23 was a 'saving strategy'.

In fact medical administration tried very hard to fill these shifts. The school holidays meant that more medical officers were on leave and that the locum medical officers were more heavily booked than usual.

The night shift vacancies had been advertised to locum medical officers for a number of weeks without success. Consequently, it was planned that these shifts would be filled by existing staff, however due to unexpected sick leave it was not possible to cover the entire roster with on-site staff.

Therefore, a contingency plan to utilise on-call medical staff who live close to Ballina District Hospital to respond to life threatening emergencies was instituted during this period to ensure that such emergencies could receive a quick medical response.

I am assured that patients were not put at risk. A First Line Emergency Trained Nurse was rostered as an extra  nurse in the Ballina emergency department on each of the September 19-23 night shifts.

The nursing staff could also contact the Lismore Base Hospital emergency department for medical officer advice if required.

It should also be noted that some categories of critically ill patients (e.g. major trauma, heart attack)are taken directly by NSW Ambulance to Lismore Base regardless of whether a medical officer is available at Ballina.

I apologise for any inconvenience caused to patients due to a medical officer not being available at Ballina District Hospital on the night shifts of September 19-23.

* Chris Crawford is the chief executive officer of the Northern NSW Local Health District.

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