Rural nurses win better equipment

A union training course was the catalyst for a winning campaign to improve hospital services in two country towns.

Bombala Multi Purpose Service (MPS) and Delegate MPS will get life-saving diagnostic equipment thanks to a community campaign organised by NSWNMA branches.

The campaign resulted in the state government agreeing to fund a bladder scanner at Bombala and an iSTAT bedside testing machine and vein finder for Delegate.

Bombala (population 1500) and Delegate (population 450) are in the Monaro region south of Cooma. Both facilities have emergency departments that service a large, isolated area extending into Victoria.

Barbara Tiernan, secretary and delegate of the NSWNMA branch at Delegate MPS, said the community campaign was prompted by an “informative and inspiring” training day organised by the NSWNMA.

“It was a very good training course that showed us how to plan a campaign to get public support for action to improve services in our communities,” Barbara said.

“Following the course, Delegate and Bombala branches agreed to work together towards the common goal of trying to improve access to healthcare and medical services in Delegate, Bombala and the surrounding area.”

The branches jointly organised a public meeting in Bombala, which heard presentations from NSWNMA members Tania Cuzner (Bombala MPS) and Lucinda Ingram-Bates, Yvonne Camm and Barbara (Delegate MPS).

Barbara said the well-attended meeting was supported by local groups including the Delegate Progress Association and Bombala Rotary along with Country Labor Party state election candidate Bryce Wilson.

Petition garners support

NSWNMA branches and community groups also launched a petition calling for improved health services for the area.

The petition said the Southern NSW Local Health District (LHD) had jeopardised patient care by failing to provide equipment to allow nurses to follow care pathways.

Branch representatives presented the petition containing more than 1100 signatures to Deputy Premier and local MP John Barilaro.

Branch representatives later met with then shadow minister of health Walt Secord, Bryce Wilson, Bombala 
GP Dr Colin Pate and members of the public.

“Discussion centred around the lack of medical staff and equipment and resulted in the Country Labor Party making a pre-election commitment to provide $30,000 to each facility for the purchase of equipment,” Barbara said.

In March, Mr Barilaro announced funding of $105,000 for the purchase of an iSTAT machine and vein finder for Delegate MPS and a bladder scanner for Bombala MPS.

He commended staff at both facilities for “their commitment to improving care and better resources for those in the community”.

“Nurses in Bombala and Delegate do an incredible job caring for each and every person, as if they were caring for their own family member,” he said.

Minimal services for massive geographical area

Barbara said the equipment would allow nurses to properly fulfil their professional obligations in regard to following NSW Health clinical pathways for conditions such as chest pain, sepsis and stroke.

“The equipment will also enable treatment for certain conditions to begin immediately instead of after transfer, which may take several hours,” she said.

“A bladder scanner will help to prevent transfers to South East Regional Hospital in Bega for this procedure.

“In addition to the promised medical equipment the LHD has employed a doctor to service the emergency department at Bombala until June 2021.

“Delegate MPS and township has not had a doctor since 2007. More medical staff are needed in the area as it is unsustainable for one doctor working in ED and also working as a GP to maintain this level of service.

“When no doctor is available in Bombala ED, the doctor in Cooma ED is responsible for an area extending from south of the Victorian Border to the north of Cooma and into the mountains – a massive geographical area.

“With a lack of GPs in the area many people travel long distances to other towns to seek help.

“Old people and those with young families find this particularly difficult because there is little or no public transport in the area.

“When we collected signatures for the petition we spoke to hundreds of people. Everyone had a story to tell about the problems arising from lack of doctors in the area and some were in tears.”

Nurse recruitment a problem

The petition also raised the issue of the Telehealth service installed in Delegate several years ago. It is connected to Cooma but not 
to Bombala.

Barbara said this meant nurses at Delegate MPS were unable to communicate with the Bombala ED doctor via Telehealth.

“Nurses at Delegate have asked for Telehealth to be connected to Bombala, which would be a very useful service,” Barbara said.

“Nursing recruitment is also a major problem – as it is in most of the state – and agency nurses are widely used.”

The NSWNMA is now seeking assurances from the LHD that the $105,000 will be used to buy the specified equipment and not be diverted elsewhere.

Barbara said Delegate and Bombala branch members have visited the head of nursing, midwifery and clinical governance in Queanbeyan and written letters to the nursing executives, managers and CEO requesting that the grant not be spent on anything other than the requested equipment.

Branches have also sought a meeting with local and executive managers.