THE real costs of the proposed reconfiguration of Maclean District Hospital were laid bare to a full house on Thursday night as opposition grows to the plans announced by Northern NSW Local Health District.

It was standing room only at Maclean Showground's Jim Thompson Pavilion where members of the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association, Health Services Union and Australian Paramedics Union addressed the wider Maclean community that had gathered for the forum.

All involved expressed their frustration at the NNSWLHD plan for Maclean District Hospital to move the 14-bed acute section on level 2 downstairs into a combined subacute, acute 33-bed ward on level 1, with the vacant upstairs to be used as surge beds.

A large crowd gathered at Maclean Showground's Jim Thompson Pavilion to protest the planned reconfiguration of Maclean District Hospital.
A large crowd gathered at Maclean Showground's Jim Thompson Pavilion to protest the planned reconfiguration of Maclean District Hospital.

NSWNMA Clarence Valley Branch vice president Narelle Robison outlined some of the concerns raised by their members over the proposal, such as reduced bathroom and bed numbers.

"(Nurses) may find themselves sponging people that are capable of having showers with assistance, and maybe even panning people when toilets are full," Ms Robison said.

"Yes it has been mentioned that we've managed before with those few bathrooms in years gone by but just because we have done it before does not make it acceptable in 2020.

"There will be reduced single rooms and two-bed areas, and they would need to be prioritised for infectious patients or those that are immunosuppressed and to our palliative patients.

"With this in mind, there will be a higher chance of a palliative patient, end stage of life, receiving nursing care in a four-bedded room. Our patients deserve better than this.

"It's 2020 and this is not acceptable. All patients who enter the public health system deserve to be afforded quality care and have their dignity respected and maintained as a bare minimum."

NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association Clarence Valley branch vice president Narelle Robison addresses a large crowd that had gathered at Maclean Showground's Jim Thompson Pavilion to protest the planned reconfiguration of Maclean District Hospital.
NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association Clarence Valley branch vice president Narelle Robison addresses a large crowd that had gathered at Maclean Showground's Jim Thompson Pavilion to protest the planned reconfiguration of Maclean District Hospital.

Australian Paramedics Union delegate Tim McEwan said nothing in healthcare happened in isolation and a reconfiguration of the hospital would have flow-on effects.

"What's going to happen is that when paramedics transport someone to Maclean hospital, and that patient is unwell enough to require admission, if there are less beds than what there are now in Maclean hospital, they're going to have to be transferred to another facility," he said.

"The majority of the time for acutely unwell patients it is NSW Ambulance that does that transport. Not only do we respond to triple-0 emergency calls, we do transports between health facilities.

"If you're unfortunate enough to have one of us attend and you need transport to hospital, what you're likely to experience after this reconfiguration is a delay getting off the stretcher and on to one of the few beds at Maclean emergency department, and while that's happened we're with you for every minute you're waiting there and we're unable to respond to other emergencies in the community."

Australian Paramedics Union delegate Tim McEwan speaks at Maclean Showground's Jim Thompson Pavilion at a forum on the planned reconfiguration of Maclean District Hospital.
Australian Paramedics Union delegate Tim McEwan speaks at Maclean Showground's Jim Thompson Pavilion at a forum on the planned reconfiguration of Maclean District Hospital.

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