Senior doctors at Tweed Hospital say patients are being forced to go across the border to Queensland because the facility is at breaking point.
The hospital, which has the largest emergency department in regional NSW, was promised $48 million for an upgrade two years ago but has not received any money.
“The place is log jammed, we are unable to provide a lot of services so patients have to head north to the Gold Coast,” director of intensive care Dr Mike Lindley-Jones said.
“Somebody with cancer who needs radiotherapy will have to drive from Tweed to Lismore to receive their radiotherapy or alternatively pay between $3,000 [and] $5,000 to have it done at the John Flynn hospital on the Gold Coast because there is no service available at Tweed.”
Several other senior doctors including head of emergency Dr Rob Davies said the NSW Government was not meeting the needs of the growing population.
At Tweed hospital, 50 per cent of surgery is emergency. The benchmark across the state is 25 per cent.
Waiting To Get On The Waiting List
There are numerous patients who have to wait to be placed on the waiting list for elective surgery because doctors have been told to hold them off until they can guarantee surgery.
“There are thoughts amongst the medical staff and hospital executive that we need to have some temporising measures just to get us through the next five to eight years,” Dr Lindley-Jones said.
“Our concern is the longer this goes on before announcing the enhancement of the services, the longer there is a delay before announcing the building of a new hospital, the worse the situation is going to get.”
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said he had examined the issue of overcrowding at the hospital, but a plan to deal with it could still be three months away.
He said the $48 million promised to the hospital might not be enough.
“I am assessing at the moment and will take to Cabinet in the next couple of months a finalised plan looking at the possibility of either spending a lot of money on the current site or spending a lot more taxpayer money,” he said.
Tweed hospital staff are calling for interim measures to deal with the pressure.
Funding issues for the hospital are likely be dealt with in this year’s state budget in May.