Surgeons willing to compromise
ORTHOPAEDIC surgeons at the Lismore Base Hospital are so desperate for another permanent doctor that they offeredto reduce their elective surgery to make it more affordable for the North Coast Area Health Service to appoint another surgeon.
Dr John Mison, chairman of the hospital's orthopaedic department, spoke to The Northern Star after the paper revealed last week the hospital did not have an orthopaedic surgeon for four days over the long weekend, forcing patients to travel to the Tweed.
“We have been pleading with the hospital executive for at least another surgeon for a year now, but to date the inertia has been stunning,” he said.
“It's very disappointing they won't come to the party and work out appropriate service delivery.
“That's what it's all about – having enough people on deck to make sure people aren't waiting an inordinate amount of time to see a specialist.”
Dr Mison said that with only four orthopaedic surgeons sharing the workload at the hospital, as well as running their own private practices, doctors were becoming dangerously fatigued and a lack of time and theatre space meant treatments were often delayed.
“It has been going on for more than 10 years and I know it was one of the issues that drove two of my colleagues into private practice,” he said.
Dr Mison said the demands placed on surgeons meant waiting lists to see them before they were even put on the surgery waiting list had blown out up to six months for publicpatients. He fears this could get worse due to the area's rapidly ageing population.
The response from North Coast Area Health has consistently been it doesn't have the money, Dr Mison said.
“We have now put to them on a few occasions that we would be quite happy to split our elective surgery list, which is where we get our income, with the new person just to get some help and make it as cost neutral as possible,” he said. “So far the response has been at a snail's pace.”
A NCAHS spokesperson said it was currently liaising with the hospital about the surgeons' workload to determine if another one was needed. “We are (also) looking at the cost of a visiting medical officer and enabling the current orthopaedic surgeon to share their existing elective surgery workload,” the spokesperson said.
No timetable for the discussions was provided.
Asked about the length of the current waiting time for surgery, the spokesperson would only say the hospital was confid-ent of meeting health department benchmarks