Lismore Base's four day dilemma

THE Northern Rivers has been without an orthopaedic surgeon for the past four days with patients being transferred to Tweed Hospital for routine treatments.

The North Coast Area Health Service yesterday confirmed it had notified the region’s doctors late Friday afternoon that Lismore Base Hospital would not be able to perform simple procedures such as setting broken bones over the long weekend when the likelihood of misadventure significantly increases.

The memo said that from 3pm on Sunday until 8am today patients would be transferred almost 100km to Tweed Hospital.

The situation could have been worse had it not been for oneorthopaedic surgeon who worked on Saturday and part of Sunday, despite officially being on holidays. The doctor stayed until his flight left Australia.

A Health Service spokesperson, who apologised for ‘any inconvenience’, said the hospital had been unsuccessful in attempts to find a casual surgeon to fill the post.

“In light of the unavailability of locums (casuals), arrangements were put in place to transport any patient who needed care to the Tweed Hospital,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said a 48-year-old man in a non-serious condition had been transferred to Tweed Hospital, but declined to provide further details.

One doctor who spoke to The Northern Star on the condition of anonymity said although a person with a suspected broken bone could be seen at Lismore Base by a junior doctor there was no one qualified to oversee the treatment.

The doctor added that even ‘simple’ breaks normally required treatment by an orthopaedic surgeon.

This is not the first time that Northern Rivers hospitals have been without doctors.

As reported extensively in The Northern Star, Casino Hospital has been without a doctor on many occasions as the Area Health Service struggles to find a full-time medical officer.

Emergency doctors at Lismore Base have also complained that they are at ‘breaking point’ after working 20-hour days, according to a memo obtained by this newspaper in April.

Written by the hospital’s then acting director of medical services, Dr Sharon Stone, it said Lismore Base’s emergency department desperately needed two additional registrars, otherwise it risked losing its accreditation as a teaching hospital. 

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