Deniliquin Pastoral Times

Beds still closed

- By LAURA GREEN

A wing at the Deniliquin Hospital which was closed in the wake of a local COVID-19 outbreak has reopened, but the hospital’s capacity is still restricted by 10 beds.

The 26 bed Middleton Gorman Wing was closed for a week for deep cleaning following exposure for a COVID-19 case, but was running at a capped capacity of 16 beds when open earlier this month.

The reduction was in response to a number of staff having to self isolate after close contact with the case.

Deniliquin Health Service cluster manager Craig McColm has announced, through the Deniliquin Local Health Advisory Committee’s social media pages, that the ward reopened on Wednesday.

But the capacity cap remains as the Murrumbidg­ee Local Health District seeks to recruit staff following the stand down of up to 10 nurses who refused to comply with the COVID vaccine requiremen­t, which started on October 1.

While the wing was closed, MLHD has confirmed six patients had to be transferre­d to neighbouri­ng facilities for care.

‘‘Plans are underway to ensure these patients will be transferre­d back to Deniliquin District Hospital on Wednesday for ongoing care,’’ Mr McColm said in his announceme­nt.

Mr McColm also confirmed ‘‘several’’ of the hospital’s staff can no longer work for NSW Health because they refused to comply with the vaccine mandate.

Some staff were still in question recently due to being on leave.

MLHD has said it will not publicly quantify the number of staff involved in the exodus.

Deniliquin health advocate Elsa Bolton, who was a registered nurse at Deniliquin Hospital during her career, said history has shown that once services are lost within the health industry, it is hard to get them back.

She and 15 others put their names to a public letter on behalf of what she described as a ‘‘growing number of concerned community members’’ to ensure the beds are reinstated.

In the letter (Concerned citizens want health service assurances, PASTORAL TIMES, Tuesday, October 19), Mrs Bolton said ‘‘Deniliquin cannot afford to lose these beds’’, and expressed concern that the changes will become permanent if staff are not attracted to work at the hospital.

‘‘We are all aware of the ever-increasing erosion of bed numbers in the past, which has in turn exacerbate­d the downgradin­g and loss of services, including the gradual cessation of services offered by the numerous visiting specialist­s that once graced these hallowed halls. These doctors all delivered much needed expertise without patients having to be moved to other centres as is today,’’ it read.

‘‘Currently the staff are stressed, work excessive hours, given very little in the way of acknowledg­ment or thanks to the superlativ­e manner in which they have given their all over this very trying time of COVID.’’

While Mr McColm did not address the concerns about a reduction in beds in his announceme­nt the same day, he said he was looking forward to ‘‘resuming local inpatient services’’ the following day.

He said it was possible because of the return of staff who were self-isolating.

‘‘Our furloughed staff (staff in isolation following close contact) continue to return to the workplace with the vast remainder of staff returning to work on October 20,’’ he said.

‘‘We have maintained regular contact with our staff during this period to conduct individual welfare checks and can confirm staff have been travelling well.

‘‘It is important for the community to understand that furloughin­g staff is a means of reducing risk and preventing transmissi­on of the COVID-19 virus.’’

Three of Deniliquin’s doctors who service the hospital were also in isolation following the original exposure, in late September.

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