OPINION: Our communities need care, not more cuts

SATURDAY’S opinion piece by Hunter New England Local Health District  chief Michael DiRienzo about the decision to close Bulahdelah Hospital was disappointing on many levels.  

It is evident  attracting a doctor to act in the dual role as town general practitioner and hospital visiting medical officer has been difficult.

But isn’t that why  Hunter New England Local Health District  (and every other local health district for that matter) has a workforce recruitment department?

What is their function if not to recruit? Clearly, Hunter New England Health has given up looking at  alternatives to keeping the hospital inpatient services and emergency department open.

Why can’t any one of the hundreds of existing doctors on the Hunter New England Health payroll be placed on a rotating roster that includes working one or two days per week at Bulahdelah Hospital. 

Mr DiRienzo states that many admissions at Bulahdelah Hospital were ‘‘avoidable admissions’’.

How does he know? Was he there for each admission? Has Mr DiRienzo been sifting through the medical records of patients admitted to Bulahdelah Hospital and is now  in a position to offer an alternative clinical opinion about the relative merit of admitting doctors’ clinical judgment?

I believe the veracity of the statements made by Hunter New England Health  about ‘‘avoidable admissions’’ cannot be tested and it is certainly a convenient argument as  it justifies its position.

Problems with recruiting a doctor? No worries, shut the service and say that the patients shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

If the patients aren’t there, then we don’t need to recruit a doctor.

Mr DiRienzo talks about new directions for health services at Bulahdelah, with a promise that community health will be front and centre of the needs of the community.

But the staffing proposal put forward by Hunter New England Health concedes there will be a net loss of nursing positions. 

It seems logical that if nursing positions are being lost at Bulahdelah Hospital, then less services are being offered. 

If community health services are to be bolstered under this proposal, why aren’t all  existing nursing positions being maintained and transferred from the hospital inpatient wards and emergency department to community health services?

The $500,000 grant to redevelop the Bulahdelah Hospital will no doubt provide an opportunity to cut a ribbon at a shiny new facility. 

There’s unlikely to be a  mention, however, of the money saved by ripping healthcare jobs out of the Bulahdelah community and the inevitable relocation of healthcare workers whose positions have been deleted.

This is how you wound a local community.

Shut and downsize public services. Fewer residents with disposable income  has a knock-on effect throughout the  community. 

How many other Bulahdelah Hospitals are out there waiting for this new direction?

Over to you, Minister Jillian Skinner. Your choice is to back the Bulahdelah community, local nurses and other health workers, or not. 

My bet is that Minister Skinner won’t reverse this decision because of the money that will be saved, the proximity of the next state election  (more than two years away) and the fact that the sitting local member belongs to her government and has a healthy political margin to burn.

The good thing about a pendulum is that it swings.

It just won’t be soon enough to save this hospital. 

Matt Byrne is an organiser with the NSW Nurses and  Midwives’ Association.


Discuss "OPINION: Our communities need care, not more cuts"

Please note: All comments made or shown here are bound by the Online Discussion Terms & Conditions.