Community outcry saves ICU

The Lamp December 2013

QUOTE: “We simply cannot allow any changes at our hospital that further erode or compromise patient care.” — NSWNMA delegate Lyn Sloane CAPTION: NSWNMA delegates Lyn Sloane (left) and Tatiana Muller

“We simply cannot allow any changes at our hospital that further erode or compromise patient care.” — NSWNMA delegate Lyn Sloane
NSWNMA delegates Lyn Sloane (left) and Tatiana Muller

Planned changes to Bathurst Hospital’s intensive care unit would have effectively disabled the unit, NSWNMA branch delegate Lyn Sloane says.The plan, now apparently scrapped following public outcry, was to cut nurse numbers from three on morning and afternoon shifts to just two, seven days a week.

Lyn said patient numbers would have to be cut from seven at a time to a maximum four.

She said it would have been impossible and dangerous for only two nurses to staff the unit with a ventilated patient.

ICU staff members also perform all Medical Emergency Team calls, because an LHD directive bars emergency department staff from doing so.

Lyn said any cut to the unit’s ability to manage critically ill patients would have a flow-on effect to every other part of the hospital.

“There was an outcry in the community because critically ill people more than likely would have to be shipped out of town to another hospital in either Orange or Sydney.

“Nurses were quite flattened and demoralised by the news. We had no involvement in any discussion about it; it came as a shock.”

She said cuts to rehabilitation bed numbers would force patients to go elsewhere for care or be sent home earlier.

Nurses would be transferred to fill vacancies in areas where they had no training or clinical expertise.

“The changes as originally planned would have left us with a very basic hospital and changed the whole character of the Bathurst medical service,” Lyn said. “We are a training hospital but it would have been difficult to place students here because they wouldn’t have been able to get the training they require.”

MP urged to take a stand

NSWNMA delegate Lyn Sloane said it was disappointing that Bathurst MP Paul Toole of the National Party spoke to health service management but did not talk to nurses and other frontline staff.

The Western Advocate pointed out that Mr Toole had indicated a willingness to fight the cuts and was in the best position to lead the community campaign.

“He must put loyalty to his constituents ahead of loyalty to his government in this case or he will pay the price at the ballot box,” the paper warned.

“We simply cannot allow any changes at our hospital that further erode or compromise patient care, particularly at a time when we see more and more services being sent to Orange. Cutting services as the population grows is a recipe for disaster.

“We thank the Western NSW LHD for reconsidering its original plans, but promise that any future plans to hurt our hospital will be met with the same passionate opposition.”

State Opposition leader John Robertson was forced to speak to hospital staff over a fence, during their morning tea break, because he was denied permission to set foot on hospital grounds. The NSW Labor leader told a large gathering of nurses, cleaners and allied health staff that he would take their stories to parliament.