24 January 2023

Dr Holland blackballed as Premier opens Moruya Hospital's new emergency department

| Katrina Condie
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Premier Dominic Perrottet opening the emergency department at Moruya hospital.

Premier Dominic Perrottet joined hospital staff, including ED unit manager Katherine Fisher and Dr Stuart Stapleton to open the new emergency department at Moruya Hospital. Photo: Toby Zerna/Office of NSW Premier.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet made a flying visit to the South Coast to cut the ribbon of the new Moruya Hospital Emergency Department on Friday; however, the former high-profile doctor who has been championing a Level 4 hospital upgrade since 2017 was not invited to the official opening.

Retired doctor and Labor Member for Bega Michael Holland was noticeably absent from the private Liberal Party event celebrating the expanded emergency treatment and care services. Eurobodalla Mayor Mathew Hatcher was also excluded from the celebrations.

“Of course, I am disappointed to have not been invited to the opening of the extension considering my long history of advocacy for this improvement,” Dr Holland said.

“I do not need to be present for a media event for my community to know of my years of work on this issue.”

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While he was not invited to the party, Dr Holland has welcomed the four extra ED beds and an additional resuscitation area, but he says the “NSW government should have acted years ago for these improvements”.

“I am pleased that the people of the Eurobodalla finally have some improvement in the emergency services and that the nurses, ambulance officers, paramedics, doctors and health service workers will have improved infrastructure conditions,” he added.

Doubling the size of the ED unit is expected to provide a transition for staff into the $260 million Eurobodalla Regional Hospital, with preliminary works on the new facility to commence in the coming weeks.

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Premier Perrottet, who was joined by the Bega Liberal’s Candidate and Bega Valley Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick for the ribbon cutting, says the new ED will be “crucial in preparing the local workforce for the expanded services that will be offered at the new hospital, with construction set to be completed in 2025”.

“Growing the capacity of the emergency department in Moruya is key to ensuring we provide the community with high-level emergency health care now and into the future,” he said.

The new unit includes additional patient resuscitation and consulting spaces and a new undercover vehicle ambulance bay.

Upgrade works have also included an enhanced Close Observation Unit which will provide 24-hour specialist supervision and care for patients with complex medical or surgical needs.

Nurse speaking to NSW premier Dominic Perrottet

Moruya and Batemans Bay Hospitals Emergency Department manager Katherine Fisher gives Premier Dominic Perrottet a tour of the new facility. Photo: Toby Zerna/Office of NSW Premier.

Minister for Regional Health Bronnie Taylor said the community could expect to see early works begin on the new hospital soon, including Aboriginal archaeological works.

Mrs Taylor said the new Regional Hospital “will not only change lives but save lives”.

“Today is an exciting day for the region, and will ensure the health needs of the people of the entire Eurobodalla community from Narooma to Batemans Bay are met while work continues on delivering the new hospital,” she added.

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However, Dr Holland has questioned whether the NSW Government will be able to adequately staff the new unit.

“Despite the extra beds, I am informed by nursing staff in emergency that there are not enough nurses in the department,” he said.

“Providing a bed will give the patients a more humane experience during their assessment, but does not shorten their waiting time as there are inadequate staff numbers.”

He said prolonged waiting times meant a “high number of patients” chose to “leave the hospital without assessment or treatment”.

According to the Premier, the NSW Government is investing $4.5 billion to recruit 10,148 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff to hospitals and health services across the state over the next four years as part of the 2022-23 Budget, with 3800 of those positions in rural and regional areas.

It also incentivises hard-to-fill critical roles in hospitals and health facilities with an $883 million investment targeted at recruiting and retaining staff in regional, rural and remote areas.

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Dr Holland believes the extra beds should have been made available from the beginning of December when the population swells over the holiday period.

“The population triples in the already busiest emergency departments, which see more presentations and resuscitations than any other hospital in the Southern NSW Local Health District,” he added.

He claims the opening was politically motivated, just nine weeks out from the State Election.

“That’s politics for you, particularly when the Liberal candidate [for Bega], who has no association with this development, is present,” Dr Holland said.

The Eurobodalla Regional Hospital will be built to accommodate a Level 4 health facility, including the ED, an eight-bed Intensive Care/Close Observation Unit, increased capacity for chemotherapy and access to renal dialysis.

It will also include surgical and operating theatres, a day-stay surgical unit, an expanded medical imaging department, an MRI service, and ambulatory care for community and outpatient services.

The facility will feature paediatric and maternity beds, a special care nursery, mental health beds for short-term admission and enhanced education and training facilities, including a simulation laboratory.

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