2 May 2024

Eurobodalla Regional Hospital: Narooma residents put their questions

| Marion Williams
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Eurobodalla Regional Hospital forum in Narooma

Fitzroy Boulting, co-founder of ONE, Terry Hill of COORDINARE, Dr Stuart Stapleton and Mylene Boulting, co-founder of ONE, at the meeting. Photo: Marion Williams.

The new Eurobodalla Regional Hospital is no silver bullet but part of a “smart” and “modern” healthcare system, a forum in Narooma was told this week.

The system includes palliative care and midwifery services delivered at home to meet people’s preferences. “Advanced” paramedic care is another part of the equation because some patients will need to be transferred to Level 5 or 6 hospitals in the region, Canberra and Sydney.

Those topics were covered at the forum at Narooma Golf Club on Tuesday, 30 April, held to discuss questions and concerns of residents in Narooma and surrounding areas. Advocacy group ONE (One New Eurobodalla Level 4 Regional Hospital) and Rotary Club of Narooma organised the forum. Questions were submitted two weeks prior so that panellists could prepare responses.

This meant an orderly forum that did not get stuck on one or two issues and covered a range of topics, presumably representative of residents’ concerns.

The panellists were Member for Bega Dr Michael Holland, emergency physician Dr Stuart Stapleton, Southern NSW Local Health District general manager Coastal Network Brad Scotcher, his colleague, general manager, corporate services and projects, Sarah Galton, and Eurobodalla Shire Mayor Mat Hatcher. COORDINARE South Eastern NSW Primary Health Network community engagement consultant Terry Hill led the forum.

Eurobodalla Regional Hospital forum in Narooma

The panellists were Sarah Galton of Southern NSW Local Health District, Brad Scotcher, Southern NSW Local Health District, Dr Stuart Stapleton, Member for Bega Dr Michael Holland and Eurobodalla Shire Mayor Mat Hatcher. Photo: Marion Williams.

The hospital’s sustainability, including its capacity to expand and add services as the shire’s population grows, was a hot topic. Mr Scotcher said the hospital would be paid based on the level of activity it provided each year.

“There is scope to increase services over time. We plan to grow those, including expanded community and virtual care services, as we get the staff on board to do that,” he said.

They are working with intensive care units (ICU) in Wollongong and Canberra to train staff, as well as recruiting ICU staff. They have recruited nurses and midwives from England and Ireland and the NSW Government funds training for undergraduate nurses, midwives and other healthcare workers if they commit to five years in the public health system. Another avenue is GP proceduralists.

Dr Holland said he completely trusted that model as almost all anaesthetics are administered by GP proceduralists.

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Mr Scotcher said they had rented more than 30 sites in Batemans Bay and Moruya for staff, including locums, and there was limited overnight accommodation for on-call medical staff. Mr Hatcher said social and affordable housing was a council priority, including making land available for development.

“We do have some announcements soon about social housing completed and some more planned,” he said.

Public transport is needed to link hospitals to towns like Narooma, particularly for elderly people who can no longer drive and for patients discharged late at night. Ms Galton said they were advocating for that. They also fund a patient transfer service that is provided by volunteers, although there are not enough volunteers.

Mr Scotcher said the carers’ accommodation in Bega had proven useful while Dr Stapleton said the hospital would have a short-stay unit so people would not be discharged at inconvenient hours.

Eurobodalla Regional Hospital forum in Narooma

The forum on the new Eurobodalla Regional Hospital at Narooma Golf Club on Tuesday, 30 April, was very well-attended. Photo: Marion Williams.

One person asked about treatment of stroke victims within four hours. Dr Stapleton said Moruya had the best door-to-treatment times in NSW because of its CT scan and support from Prince of Wales Hospital. Sometimes though, patients would be transferred to Canberra which has technology to remove clots.

Oncology, in particular radiotherapy, was another focus. Mr Scotcher said Professor Mick Reid’s report on the matter is with the Minister but to have something like a linear accelerator and the necessary infrastructure would cost $100 million, “a very significant commitment on top of what is already on the table at the state and federal levels”.

READ ALSO Expanded services and ‘higher quality health care’ to come from new hospital, community meeting told

Maternity beds will fall from eight to five reflecting lower birth rates and mothers’ preferences to be back home provided they are supported. Mr Scotcher said the new model would have midwives there for the birth and on-call for support. Neonatal care would be maintained at current levels, complemented by special care nursery services and paediatric beds alongside the maternity beds, all on the ground floor.

Dr Holland is lobbying for something like the Bega Valley’s Safe Haven service so that people experiencing mental health distress are not sitting in the emergency department waiting room. Dr Stapleton said four of the hospital’s eight short-stay units would be flexible, co-shared with mental health services.

Mr Scotcher dispelled the rumour that construction was delayed by Aboriginal artefacts on site.

“The hospital must go through state significant approval,” he said. “We expect it to come back very shortly.”

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