NO DOCTOR ON SHIFT: Northern NSW Local Health District chief executive Wayne Jones confirmed there was one overnight shift at a Northern Rivers hospital on August 7, 2020, in which there was no doctor on site. Photo: Cathy Adams
NO DOCTOR ON SHIFT: Northern NSW Local Health District chief executive Wayne Jones confirmed there was one overnight shift at a Northern Rivers hospital on August 7, 2020, in which there was no doctor on site. Photo: Cathy Adams

War of words over number of doctors at Ballina hospital

THE local health boss has confirmed a report there was no doctor on duty on Friday night at a Northern Rivers hospital.

Northern NSW Local Health District chief executive, Wayne Jones, has responded to comments made by president of the Rural Doctors Association of NSW, Dr Charles Evill, that Ballina Hospital had no doctors on duty last weekend due to the border closure.

Dr Evill said: "Over the weekend there was no medical officer in the emergency department at Ballina Hospital, they have been unable to get any locums so admissions were on bypass, everything went out to Lismore."

But Mr Jones said this occurred on one night only.

"There was one overnight shift at Ballina District Hospital on Friday night in which there was no doctor on site," he said.

"An additional First Line Emergency Care (FLEC) - trained senior nurse with Advanced Life Support skills was allocated to this shift.

"Staff are also supported by virtual health consultations 24 hours a day to specialist emergency staff at our larger hospitals, such as Lismore."

Mr Jones said the health district was working closely with locum agencies to source additional NSW-based staff "to bolster our affected workforce outside the border bubble".

"Our hospitals operate as part of a wider network of several facilities, which provides the ability to share staff among sites where required," he said.

But Dr Evill, who is a Ballina-based GP locum, said recruiters had told him there was an acute shortage of suitably qualified medical staff.

"I have been in touch with people who manage the staffing and locate doctors for locum work and recruiters are having a terrible time," he said.

"The flow-on effects from the border closure are fairly diabolic as staffing at local hospitals is being compromised."

Talks are ongoing with the Queensland Government about challenges that the hard border closure has presented for medical staff working in the Northern NSW Local Health District,.

Mr Jones said.

"Where there are future predicted shift vacancies, as well as unplanned absences, we already have ongoing and longstanding arrangements in place with other sites within our District to ensure medical coverage," he said.



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