Senior care threatened

GRANDMOTHER Dorothy Nebauer is a woman in limbo in a hospital bed for 10 weeks as health officials and the community face off over the future of Muswellbrook Hospital.

Her relatives, who keep her company every day, want her moved to the hospital’s aged care unit and are refusing to allow her transfer to a Merriwa nursing home.

But the 18-bed ground floor aged care unit stands in the way of an urgently needed emergency department refurbishment.

Mrs Nebauer’s daughter Kaylene Andrews, her doctor Mark Rikard-Bell, Muswellbrook mayor Martin Rush and other relatives of elderly patients believe Hunter New England Health is refusing to accept more aged care patients after health service chief executive Michael DiRienzo this week said patients ‘‘may need to relocate’’ to allow the work.

There are currently three spare beds in the unit. Work is due to start in mid-2013, but the health service is yet to finalise an agreement to build a new nursing home.

‘‘News that residents may require temporary relocation has never been the subject of consultation with council or the community, and would be completely inappropriate,’’ Cr Rush said.

‘‘Any temporary relocation outside the area won’t be tolerated by the community because of fears it will result in privatisation by stealth.’’

Dr Rikard-Bell said the community had ‘‘spent a lot of effort getting the nursing home to Muswellbrook, and our fear is they’re using the urgent need to rebuild the emergency department as an excuse to divest themselves of an aged care unit’’.

Mrs Andrews said the health service had given a number of reasons why Mrs Nebauer could not be moved to the aged care unit, but ‘‘none of the reasons made sense’’.

‘‘I’m not going to allow her to leave town. You might as well write her death certificate if she does,’’ Mrs Andrews said.

Hunter New England Health would not comment on an individual case.

‘‘In cases where the hospital facility is not the most suitable place, we help patients and their families to find another appropriate facility as close to home as possible,’’ a spokeswoman said.

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