Member for Barwon Roy Butler has informed the Condobolin Argus that since becoming aware of the medical coverage issues at the Condobolin Hospital, he has been in regular contact with Western NSW Local Health District receiving updates on their work to secure medical coverage for Condobolin.
Roy states that “Today (3 March 2020), I have been informed that they have secured the services of a full time Visiting Medical Officer for the hospital commencing on Monday 9 March 2020.
“It’s disappointing that the previous provider pulled out of the service so abruptly creating uncertainty and concern for the town.
“Good medical services for communities in Barwon is something that I pay particular attention to, and have been working with the Health Minister to ensure regional communities receive their fair share of funding, and have appropriate services available that meet the needs of the community.
“Telehealth services are a part of the make-up of rural medical services, but cannot be used as a replacement for face-to-face medical services, especially when a person needs to have a bone set, or a wound stitched.
“As part of my recent discussions with Western NSW Local Health District, I was briefed on the work that they are undertaking in Condobolin to further upskill our local Nurses in Emergency procedures such as stiches.
“This work will ensure they can continue to meet the needs of the Condobolin community.
“It’s important to recognise that during this period of uncertainty following the abrupt departure of the previous provider, the local Nurses and management have worked to ensure the people of Condobolin have been taken care of, to them thank-you for weathering the change.”
This will come as a relief to the Condobolin Community as last week’s response about ongoing VMO Services at Condobolin Hospital from WNSWLHD led to more questions than answers.
In response to the Condobolin Argus questions about VMO Services that will be available at Condobolin now that RaRMs have left and what VMO Services are operating in larger centres like Parkes, Forbes and Orange, the following statement from a WNSWLHD spokesperson has been received today.
“Western NSW LHD is in the final stages of arranging VMO rights to Condobolin Hospital for a GP Provider to deliver a sustainable service to the community.
The planned medical model at Condobolin will see a permanent VMO service that is supported after hours by both on call and telehealth services. The VMO will undertake a ward round daily on all acute inpatients.
The VMO will be on call for emergencies until 8pm Monday to Friday and 24 hours a day for critical care and life-threatening emergencies.
To support the VMO to sustain long periods of on call and safely manage fatigue.
Non-emergency presentations after hours will be primarily managed with the assistance of the 24-hour Virtual Rural Generalist Service and vCare, which has been providing medical and nursing staff with support for critical care presentations since 2008.
Condobolin Hospital has access to Registered Nurses, VMOs and Paramedics. Paramedics are activated to assist (CERS assist) in hospital during critical care episodes where additional support may be required – this will continue.
Prior to the departure of RaRMS, the Condobolin Hospital has operated with a two-week face-to-face service, followed by a two-week virtual RaRMS service.
There is no proposal to remove beds from Condobolin Hospital.
Hospital emergency departments are always open, but they are for emergencies.
If you’re not experiencing an emergency, consider calling the HealthDirect line on 1800 022 222 where you can speak with a trained health professional.
If you do come to an ED, remember that people are seen in the order of urgency, not in order of arrival.
There are a number of VMO’s who work across the Lachlan Health Service, the following medical services are available:
• General Medicine/Inpatient
• Ambulatory Care, Hospital in the Home
• Elective Surgery
The Condobolin Argus asked what arrangements were in place at bigger centres such as Orange Parkes and Forbes for VMO services.
While at Orange, the ED is predominantly run by staff specialists.
Orange Health Service is the regional trauma service (RTS) for the WNSWLHD and can provide all aspects of care to patients with moderate to minor trauma, and definitive care to a limited number of major trauma patients in collaboration with the Major Trauma Services (MTS). A RTS provides initial assessment, stabilisation, definitive care and initiate transfer to an MTS when a patient requires services not available at the RTS.”
In response to the Condobolin Argus’s question as to the pressure on nursing staff who are already working a number of 16 hour shifts with no on call relief staff available the spokesperson said “ NSW hospitals are staffed in accordance with the Public Health System Nurses’ and Midwives’ (State) Award 2019.
“Between mid-2012 and mid-2018 Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) has increased its workforce by an additional 478 full time equivalent staff – an increase of 10 per cent – including 73 more doctors and 124 extra nurses.
“The Award allows local nurse unit managers in health facilities throughout NSW the flexibility to allocate nursing hours in a way that matches the busiest times on the wards and also the specific needs of the patient.
“Condobolin Hospital is actively working to recruit more nurses to boost the casual relief pool, with one new nursing graduate commencing at the hospital this year.
“Additional hours are offered to staff when there is unplanned and unexpected leave.
“The Condobolin Health Service Manager and General Manager are contactable by phone to manage staffing allocations.”
“More than 100 new nurses and midwives will join Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) hospitals this year as part of their annual new graduate intake, under the NSW Government’s record $2.8 billion investment to boost frontline health workers by 8300 over four years.
“The 2019/20 budget for the Condobolin Health Service is more than $4 million.”
While the community welcomes the news of VMO Services being reinstated, to the Argus it it appears more pressure will be put on already overworked nursing staff who are limited to two per shift to handle ED, high need in-patients, walk-in patients and phones.
The addition of one more nurse will help however, perhaps it is time to rethink the nursing staffing ratio to further support our nurses.
The Condobolin Argus had hoped to have a statement from Brenshaw Medical who are running the Melrose Street Medical Centre, but at the time of going to print no contact from them had been received.
By Anne Coffey.