Confusion over new Maitland hospital

Health Minister Jillian Skinner. Picture: Edwina PicklesConfusion reigns over plans for the new Maitland hospital.
Nanjing Night Net

Hunter doctors believe they are not being consulted about services and Health Minister Jillian Skinner insiststhe facility willhave “upwards of 350” beds –despite a leaked confidential document indicating otherwise.

TheNSW Health Infrastructure brief, obtained by Fairfax Media, showed the facility dubbed“Maitland’s incredible shrinking hospital”, could be just that.

The Lower Hunter’s population willgrow by more than 43,000 people in the next 20 years, but the new hospital could only have 88 more beds than the current Maitland Hospital by 2022.

That’s 180 fewer than the 462 that the original business case recommended at a cost of $316 million less to get up and running, according to the August 2015 document.

But Health Minister Jillian Skinner told Fairfax Media on Tuesdayshe expected a public-private partnership would mean “upwards of 350 beds”, including public and private beds. “Any operator will be required to treat all public patients who present at the hospital,” she said.

“There will be no designated limit or proportion of beds allocated for public as opposed to private patients.

“This means that, if necessary, 100 per centof the hospital’s bed capacity would be utilised for the treatment of public patients.”

Fairfax Media reported last year that Maitland Hospital Medical Staff Council had heard plans for the facilityhad been reduced from the promised 450 beds, but the government hadremained tight-lipped about the issue since then.

Ms Skinner told 1233 ABC radio on Tuesday morning she “would expect [the new Maitland hospital]to be much bigger than the current Maitland hospital, which is about 200 beds”.

Australian Medical Association presidentProfessor Brad Frankum said Maitland Hospital doctors believedthe government had not properlyconsulted them about which services the region needed.

Professor Frankum said the region needed better critical care services.

He said the size and complexity of the emergency department and intensive care unit at the new hospital was important to get right.

“The clinicians at Maitland seemed to be getting a whole lot of different messages over the last few years about exactly what the hospital size and complexity was going to be,” he said.

“The Ministryof Health and Local Health Districtdo seem tohave changed their mind on a numberof occasions and that creates quite a bit of uncertainty.

“Big projects like this only succeed if they are done with good clinician engagement–that’s not just doctors but nurses and Allied Health professionals as well.

“Those are the people who understand the needs and if they’re not on board, you’re not going to succeed.

“There’s been very significant lack of engagement with clinicians in this whole thing so far.”

Professor Frankum said the planning process needed to change or the hospitalwould “not be up to the task” of catering for the region’s rapidly growing population.

“Doctors at the hospital have been alarmed for some time about the way the government has approached the redevelopment,” he said.

“They know they need a bigger facility than is currently planned to cope with the growing and ageing population.

“It’s the same story across NSW–more people, who are older and sicker, are presenting to hospital emergency departments every quarter.

“Maitland Hospital is very important to get right because it supports nine other hospitals, including Kurri Kurri, Scone, Muswellbrook, Cessnock and Singleton.”

He said no hospital in NSW was“an island” butneeded to provide a minimum level of care for their communities.

“For that to happen in Maitland, the government needs to get it right from the outset,” he said.

Mrs Skinner’s statement to Fairfax Media did not respond to Professor Frankum’s comments.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.