Page MP Janelle Saffin.
Page MP Janelle Saffin.

MP: Reinstate emergency services

PAGE MP Janelle Saffin has condemned the Northern NSW Local Health District over its axing of night emergency services at Bonalbo hospital and its refusal to reinstate services at Coraki.

Ms Saffin has just released a statement saying she questions "what is going on with our local health services" and saying she has already written to health service boss Chris Crawford saying the service - including the administrative board which is intended to represent the community - had created "fear in our small communities" and had lost the trust of the residents of Bonalbo and Coraki.

Ms Saffin called on the service to reinstate emergency services at Coraki while it does its study on the health needs of the town and surrounding areas.

Ms Saffin's full statement is as follows:

"I express my dismay at the actions of the Northern New South Wales Local Health District's administration in closing the 24/7 nursing operation at Bonalbo Hospital, and call upon the Board to immediately reinstate it.

"I was at Bonalbo Hospital on Saturday with the nurses and I promised them that in addition to my earlier letter to the Chief Executive Chris Crawford and the Board, that I would make a public call for the immediate reinstatement for the 24/7 nursing operation.

"I realise it is a matter of state administration, but I take a very strong interest in health, securing much needed Federal funds locally, so I cannot stay silent when a community is left abandoned, as is the case in Coraki as well.

"I question what is going on with our local health services?  

"I was at the public meeting in Bonalbo last year, discussing how to handle the departure of the local GP.

"With the permanent GP gone, it is important to keep as many of the health services as possible, and give the community a sense of security regarding their health.

"This also allows them to keep faith in the health service, while attempts to attract another GP or two GPs to the Bonalbo township and district are continuing.

"When the decision was taken to cease the 24/7 nurses' shifts in Bonalbo, without consultation about how things would work with the 11.00 pm to 7.00 am shift axed, I let Mr Crawford know that I was appalled.

"I said in my letter to him, that: "There is fear now in our small communities, both Bonalbo and Coraki, that you and the Board are set on closing their hospitals and neither community believes you when you say that you will restore their health services."

"I have now told the nurses, the SOS Action Committee and locals to go to the Board, as they are our community representatives.
"The current interim Bonalbo model of operation, with doctors brought in from neighbouring towns, has been lauded by health representatives, including Board members, as a good model for  the residents of Coraki and district, who have not only lost their hospital due to the disrepair of the facility, but have been left without alternative services.

"I am waiting to hear the announcement that some emergency services will be reinstated there while a health services plan is done.
"There have been so many calls for the immediate reinstatement of the 24/7 service from concerned community members and key representative organisations.  These include Kyogle Shire Council, the NSW Nurses Association, the local NSW Nurses Association members, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples' representatives and all Bonalbo and district residents.
"The NSW Nurses Association has said that: "People usually only call on health services during the night when things are serious, so it is important that this community has sufficient capacity to respond during the night."

"The local nurses, through the NSW Nurses Association, have asked a list of some 29 questions which raise serious issues that need to be addressed immediately, including that of nurses' security.

"The list includes critical questions such as:

  • Who will carry the hospital and drug cupboard keys and how would they be passed from one nurse to the next; for example, to get keys from evening shift nurse to morning shift nurse where the morning nurse will usually be a different nurse?
  • Once the nursing night shifts cease, where does the Local Health District plan to keep the key for the alternative helipad if a helicopter evacuation was required through the night as the usual helipad has been flooded four times in the past 10 years? Is the Health District aware that it takes an average of four hours to mobilize helicopter retrieval?

"It is bad enough to axe the 24/7 nursing operations, but to then not manage the process is negligent.
"Kyogle Shire Council, in its letter to Mr Crawford, has stated categorically that: "The decision to cease the provision of Emergency Services at Bonalbo Hospital between 11.00 pm and 7.00 am will result in unacceptable risk to the health and well being of our community and is completely at odds with previous guarantees provided to the Bonalbo community at public meetings that there would be no reduction to health services."

"It is clearly up to the Board members to ensure that there are no reduction to health services and I am asking them to continue this service of 24/7 coverage with nurses."

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