Surge bed policy will roll out

LISMORE Base Hospital is rolling out the controversial surge bed policy, closing five beds in its orthopaedic ward as North Coast Area Health Service continues to reduce costs to find savings of $30 million from its annual budget.

Under the policy the beds will be reopened if the emergency department is full, Lismore Hospital’s Nurses Association spokesman Gil Wilson said.

As revealed by The Northern Star in May, four-and-a-half full-time equivalent nursing positions have been ‘deleted’ from the orthopaedic ward as part of the second round of cuts that targeted 100 positions.

North Coast Area Health Service chief executive Chris Crawford said these positions have been reallocated to other wards within the hospital.

“It’s not a loss of beds because they haven’t been used for ... some time. We found spare capacity and decided to turn them into surge beds and open them when needed,” he said.

The beds will be used for ‘medical overflow’ and separated from orthopaedic patients, Mr Crawford said.

He said Area Health would monitor the policy before it decides to extend it to other areas of the hospital.

Mr Wilson said while the union was ‘fundamentally’ opposed to surge beds it agreed to the roll-out at Lismore following assurances that beds would be re-opened permanently if they were not opened when needed.

The policy was first trialled at Ballina Hospital about 18 months ago. It has since been adopted at six sites, including Murwillumbah and Maclean hospitals.



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