Health system could collapse if we don’t fight: Burge
Deniliquin’s health services have been neglected for too long, and Shirlee Burge believes it’s time to fight, and stop accepting the continuing decline.
Mrs Burge was inspired to make her concerns about health services public when Deniliquin Hospital temporarily reduced its maternity services in September.
It was the latest in a long line of concerns about what Mrs Burge describes as a prolonged downgrade of the hospital.
Now, Mrs Burge said she’s shocked by the latest directive that surgical procedures on babies and children under 15 are no longer allowed at Deniliquin Hospital.
It is believed letters were sent to local doctors recently issuing the directive.
‘‘It is a national disgrace that our young- sters are transported out of town for minor ailments and procedures,’’ Mrs Burge said.
‘‘We have no regular public transport to anywhere, so how is this allowed to occur?
‘‘The onus on our ambulance service as a result to remove a child to another hospital puts at risk the ability to service other critical patients.
‘‘Murrumbidgee Health needs to employ a paediatrician and paediatric nurses immediately.’’
Murrumbidgee Local Health District regional general manager Rosemary Garthwaite said it is in fact a direction from the Ministry of Health, which she said is part of the ‘‘role delineation’’ process.
‘‘It’s about what different facilities are able to deliver, and it is part of NSW Health policy,’’ Ms Garthwaite said.
‘‘These reviews are done regularly, at Deniliquin and at other sites, and it’s more a reminder of what is available at the hospital.
‘‘From a Ministry perspective, it is all about patient safety. People under 15 are a vulnerable group and we need to ensure they have access to other support services — that includes access to ICU and other specialist units, and the expertise that larger referral hospitals have.
‘‘Deniliquin has been doing some minor surgeries, and we do not expect to see a huge change at Deniliquin (as a result of this directive).
‘‘We will continue to work with the doctors and the community on this.’’
Along with Joy Allen, Mrs Burge has taken her concerns to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, new NSW Member for Murray Austin Evans and Edward River Council and is now pushing for investment to upgrade Deniliquin Hospital and reinstate services lost over a number of years.
Deniliquin’s rural health classification must also be changed, she said, as it limits our ability to attract and retain medical professionals.
‘‘We must immediately allocate $30 million to $40 million to upgrade the Deniliquin Hospital to a major medical facility,’’ Mrs Burge said.
‘‘The district population that may use Deniliquin Hospital, if you include Moama, is nearly 20,000, and Deniliquin is the geographical centre of the area so it makes sense to invest in our hospital.
‘‘We need to include a full-time position of a medical registrar, enabling our under resourced doctors to be able to have a night off occasionally.
‘‘We need to use initiative and create a major outback training facility suited to rural nurses and doctors, and to start looking after the people of rural New South Wales.
‘‘The Deniliquin Hospital in its existing surface area used to house 109 beds and consulting rooms, and it requires urgent configuration to return it to the facility it should be.
‘‘We need to upgrade the hospital straight away and we need full-time maternity services with dedicated midwives.
‘‘We need to immediately allocate a position for a full-time domiciliary midwife and enable them to travel further than the 30 kilometre radius restriction currently in place, to service an area with a 100 kilometre radius and most women who will be birthing at Deniliquin.’’
Mrs Burge acknowledges some of the issues at Deniliquin Hospital are caused by MLHD’s tight budget, but she said money needs to stop being used as an excuse.
‘‘It is no longer acceptable to state that funding is the issue; the Deniliquin Hospital has had minimum funding over the past 15 years in comparison to other smaller facilities within the Murrumbidgee Local Health District.
‘‘There’s been multi-million dollar investments at Holbrook and Culcairn, both of which are closer to facilities at Wagga and Albury.
‘‘We have to fix all of this now, before the health system collapses.’’
Mrs Burge said Premier Berejiklian has given a promise that she would further investigate the series of issues at Deniliquin Hospital.
Mr Evans admitted he was ‘‘surprised’’ by the information put to him by Mrs Burge, and said he’s already seeking a meeting with MLHD chief executive Jill Ludford.
‘‘After meeting with Shirlee Burge and Joy Allen (on Tuesday) I have made a point of asking people their thoughts in all other meetings I’ve had in Deniliquin,’’ he said.
‘‘I think one of the things that needs to happen first is to get someone from Deniliquin on the Murrumbidgee Local Health District board and ensure local concerns are being heard.
‘‘In regards to the upgrade push, I need to explore more and understand what is required.
‘‘Services and staffing is the most critical thing. From what I understand the response to questions about services is commonly there is no demand for a particular service.
‘‘I do believe those figures are skewed with the number of people being forced to seek treatment across the border, so we need to track if health statistics at other facilities are listed by postcode on the Medicare system.
‘‘I also believe there are some improvements that can be made to the recruiting process, including the time it takes to get through the processes.’’