The Lismore Base Hospital.
The Lismore Base Hospital. Cathy Adams

Lismore Hospital's 'phantom ward': where is the money?

A FULLY-FUNDED "phantom ward" at Lismore Hospital is the latest subject of protest by doctors calling for Northern NSW Local Health District chief executive Chris Crawford to be sacked.

Lismore Medical Staff Council chairman Dr Chris Ingall said the NSW Government gave more than $11 million to the North Coast Area Health Service (NCAHS) in 2009 to set up a number of services, including a geriatric unit at Lismore Base Hospital.

The NCAHS was divided geographically in 2011 into the Mid North Coast and Far North Coast district, with Mr Crawford remaining CEO of the latter.

The Mid North Coast opened its geriatric unit - designed to give older patients space to get mobile during their recovery and return home more quickly - in Port Macquarie in January this year.

But the Far North Coast is still without a geriatric unit five years after it was funded.

"Our geriatrics just lie in bed because there's nowhere for them to move," Dr Ingall said.

"The elderly residents of the Mid North Coast now enjoy access to this fine unit and the services it provides, but where is our Geriatric Evaluation and Management (GEM) unit, Mr Crawford?

"There is no place or team in our district to help an elderly patient who may have developed delirium following surgery or a urinary tract infection. And even the allied health staff, occupational therapists and the like, are not available to provide the essential functional assessments to enable patients to be eligible for GEM care."

Mr Crawford provided a brief response to the criticism via a statement on Thursday.

"The geriatric assessment and valuation unit funding was initially used at Lismore Base Hospital to recruit a geriatrician, a career medical officer and a co-ordinator to support the care of geriatric patients," he said.

"The funding was also utilised to undertake some early building works to support the development of the GEM unit.

"The proposal for the GEM unit was not able to proceed as originally intended due to a reorganisation of the Lismore Base Hospital wards.

"The geriatric patients admitted to Lismore Base Hospital are admitted to Ward C7."

Secord wants answers

NSW Labor has lodged a Freedom of Information request for all correspondence between the State Government and Northern NSW Local Health District chief executive Chris Crawford.

The request comes after 84 senior clinicians signed a petition calling for Mr Crawford to be sacked over his handling of a complaint made against Lismore obstetrician Dr Glenn Taylor.

Dr Taylor was stood down from his position before the completion of an investigation, which ultimately found him innocent of all charges.

Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord has called for the publication of all correspondence relating to Dr Taylor's case and how complaints are handled.

Mr Secord said the names of the individuals involved, and nature of claims against them, should be redacted to maintain their confidentiality.

"The community has a right to know," he said.

"That is why I have lodged the application.

"I also want to know the Health Minister's office's involvement in this matter and to ensure that there is not a repeat of previous mistakes."

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