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Image: Courtesy of Maclean District Hospital facebook page.

One hospital dispute, two public meetings

Geoff Helisma|

In the Wednesday February 19 edition of the ‘Independent’, the story ‘Battlelines drawn to save Maclean hospital beds’ drew attention to the Nurses and Midwives Association (NMA) calling a public forum at the Jim Thompson Pavilion at Maclean showgrounds at 6pm on Thursday February 27 to discuss the issue.

On Friday February 21, the Northern NSW Local Health District (LHD) announced that it will hold its own meeting at the Maclean Services Club today, Wednesday February 26, from 3.30pm to 5pm.

At the time of the paper’s editorial deadline, the Independent has confirmed that both meetings will take place.

The Independent put several questions to the LHD’s chief executive Wayne Jones on Friday:

  • Why has the LHD called another public meeting, given a forum had already been called by the Midwife and Nurses Association for the day after, where the relevant parties have been invited to speak?
  • Why would the LHD call a meeting at times that many interested community members cannot attend, given they would be finishing work at a similar time to this meeting’s finish time?
  • The association is not mentioned in the LHD media release, is it excluded from the LHD meeting?
  • As a suggestion, wouldn’t it be less confusing to extend the consultation period a week or two? (please elaborate on a yes or no answer)

Mr Jones replied with the following statement: “We established the [LHD-facilitated] forum to counter the misinformation in the community and reassure them that the services at the hospital are not being reduced.

“If required, we will run an additional community forum.

“NNSWLHD were not consulted on the date of the association forum and senior executive are not available.

“As is standard process we are engaged in consultation with staff and unions to discuss their concerns.”

Meanwhile, union representatives met with LHD officials on Monday (after the paper’s print deadline).

Nurses and Midwives Association Mark Murphy said the 3.30pm to 5pm timeframe for the meeting was “inopportune”, as it coincided with “nurses working and their shift changeover”.

“Morning staff will be finishing and afternoon staff starting their shifts,” he said.

However, he said he “hoped and encouraged members, who were able to, to attend”.

Here are a few of the issues about which the LHD and NMA disagree or need clarification.

LHD: We are consolidating patients and staff into one ward, while the other ward will remain available for ‘surge’ capacity in times of peak activity.

MNA: Level 2 (the Acute Ward) is being closed and this equates to 14 beds. What is not stated with the planned merging of Level 2- Acute Ward, with Level 1- Sub-acute and Rehab, is one-third of the present available beds are being lost.

LHD: Surge capacity, or surge beds are additional beds, which become available if there is a high demand at the hospital.

MNA: If Level 2 is to remain available for ‘surge capacity’, it will need to be cleaned every day and stocked accordingly.

LHD: There are no changes to any services provided at the hospital. As with any hospital stay, patients are admitted to the appropriate facility and ward based on the level of care and treatment they require.

MNA: There will be no Acute Ward. On Level 1, there will be the Rehab facility (10 beds) consisting of five wards with ensuites. All other patients, whether they be Acute, Sub-Acute, Palliative Care or Infectious (23 beds) will be placed in the remaining four 4-bed wards, three 2-bed wards and one bed (with ensuite). For these 23 patients they will be sharing a toilet/shower between 4.4 patients. This ratio is more than double that of the present Acute ward.

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