Wednesday 28 September 2011

Cairns Base Hospital in financial pain

Ailing Cairns Base Hospital system cries out for lifeline

Kelly Burns
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
© The Cairns Post

Cairns Base Hospital is facing a shortage in almost every service it provides but the State Government denies the region's primary health facility is underfunded.

Public doctors and union leaders say the hospital is lacking either staff or resources in at least 16 departments, ranging from vital specialties such as dialysis, neurology and respiratory medicine to allied health services such as speech pathology, occupational therapy and physiotherapy/rehabilitation.

Hospital officials cited various reasons, including widespread shortages in speciality skills, lack of demand for certain services and the city’s close proximity to Townsville where relevant treatment is available.

Health Minister Geoff Wilson said the hospital’s executive team was responsible for such operational issues. "These are very clearly issues for the local hospital management and staff," he said in a statement. "The Government has provided record funding and a massive budget boost. "It is up to the district CEO (Julie Hartley-Jones), in consultation with senior clinical staff, to decide how best to spend it."

Ms Hartley Jones said the hospital’s services had expanded since she was appointed chief executive officer in 2009. "We put the first public MRI in in August 2009, we have increased sub-acute beds, we opened the cardiac cath lab (and) opened radiation oncology in June this year."But she acknowledged there were shortages in some specialties, particularly urology, which she was working on making available locally. "Of all the services, that’s the one (urology) where I genuinely feel it is a service we need to have locally," Ms Hartley-Jones said. "And I’m working with Mater (Hospital) in Brisbane, who provide it at the moment, to look at transitioning services so that this year we can start services."

Cairns Base Hospital’s acting director of medical services Patrick O’Neill said many allied health specialties were suffering from a national skills shortage, not lack of funding as claimed by unions and public sector doctors. "Recruiting is a problem for everybody all across Australia," he said. "It’s not related to funding. "It’s related to finding the people and competing with a fairly wide audience to get those people up here." Mr Wilson said the Cairns Hinterland Health District received a budget increase of more than 20 per cent this
financial year.

But Cairns Physicians Group spokesman Peter Boyd said the funding had yet to be felt by understaffed or under resourced departments. "We’ve been told that but we’ve still got acute staffing requirements in areas where we need to move quickly on," Dr Boyd said.
"I haven’t heard anything about putting on specialists and closing that gap."

Ms Hartley-Jones said the Cairns district was expected to receive more money for its services when it was funded under a national model to be introduced in July next year.

Many of the needs in the district were also being addressed in a clinical services plan, which projected demand over the next 15 years, currently  being prepared, she said.

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Posted by: Lisa Robbie of Edmonton 9:29am Tuesday

We are in the midst of a global nursing crisis as the softer Y-geners choose to enter other less demanding careers. The age group of 50-54 currently has the most number of nurses and it is estimated that 90,000 nurses will retire by 2020. It is also estimated that we currently have a shortage of about 500 nurses nationally and that number will increase to 5000 by 2020. Knowing my 2 teenagers and their friends, it is my own opinion that those numbers are underestimated. On any given day at CBH, management struggle to fill vacancies that exist on rosters as well as unplanned leave - sick, bereavement and family leave. When those vacancies can't be filled by casuals the already overworked staff have to work double shifts to cover the shortfall. Bear in mind that might mean a nurse starts an afternoon shift at 2.30 and finish at 7.30am the following day! Situations like this where staff would have to work a "double" exist almost every day. This is not isolated to Cairns. Stories like this exist all around the country and entire hospitals are closing down. Just google it and see. So you can bang on about increasing services all you like, but who is going to care for the patients. And where are the nurses going to come from to staff the new D-Block. The solution? A complete change in health ideology. That will mean we need to become a tougher society and not rush to the GP with every sniffle & spew. Visit your pharmacist for advice & over the counter medications, increase Hospital In The Home services, flog Primary Health care & health promotion, and become a healthier society. Throwing money at hospitals and opening more beds and services is useless if there are no registered nurses to care for you. We have an aging population so build more aged care facilities and get those who are waiting for placement out of there. They can then be cared for by AIN's and EN's instead of the declining RN resource. I have sent articles to both State & Federal departments on this issue. I have had no response. The only ones listening at this stage are the Australian Party.
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Posted by: Dr Damian Byrnes of KAP Mulgrave  6:19pm Tuesday

How can the State Government deny the region's primary health facility is under funded when at the end of the article, Our Health District CEO says: "Cairns district was expected to receive more money for its services when it was funded under a national model to be introduced in July next year."We need to assess the competence of our present State government and Hospital Executive, when a "Cairns Base Hospital Clinical services plan (meeting the population's health service needs till 2021) was signed off by the Premier in Dec 2008, Yet less than 3 years later we are doing another Clinical service plan. As Lisa recommends, we need a complete change in health ideology - primary health, increasing aged care resources, 4 weeks post hospital care if required(not 2 weeks), pharmacists with increasing dispensing powers for certain conditions. And yes, patients should be given an appointment time and date for outpatient appointments and surgery. Waiting 21 months for cataract surgery - That needs urgent attention.

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