Hospital staff fear changes

MEDICAL staff at Lismore Base Hospital say they were not consulted on major changes to the Stage Three redevelopment and only learned of them from reading last Saturday's Weekend Star.

Medical Staff Council chairman and prominent Lismore pediatrician Dr Chris Ingall said the planning process for the upgrade had been removed from local hands and given over to a Sydney-based architectural firm under the aegis of Health Infrastructure, a section of the NSW Health Department.

Dr Ingall said based on past experience, doctors were worried the loss of local input into planning could result in a redevelopment that did not suit the Northern Rivers' medical needs.

By way of example, Dr Ingall said when building a bunker for a new MRI scanner, the Health Service had blacked out the windows in the special care nursery.

However, this meant there was no longer any natural light in the special care nursery, which was needed to diagnose jaundice in babies.

As a result, pediatricians had to take babies to a stairwell to check them for jaundice.

There was also concern about the effectiveness and scope of the upgrade in its new location - at the eastern end of the Base Hospital building on Uralba St.

Dr Ingall said it had been decided long ago that the site currently occupied by the Health Service's administrative centre, Crawford House, would be the ideal spot for Stage Three because it would allow expansion without impinging on existing services.

Failing to provide the full upgrade meant overcrowded wards would not be expanded, the ability to do surgery would remain limited and, ultimately, the emergency department would continue acting as a holding area for patients waiting for a spot on a ward to become free.

NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner last week said Lismore Base would need to increase its focus on community-based care to ease pressure on hospital beds.

But Dr Ingall said community-based care worked only up to a certain level of illness, and people who could be cared for in the community generally already were.



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