Hospital ‘in crisis’
BALLINA GP Dr Colin Macdonald has warned Ballina hospital is now at crisis point, with only half the required number of doctors to fill the 20 visiting medical officer (VMO) positions.
Dr Macdonald’s comments came after two doctors recently quit the roster of VMOs who provide care for patients in the 36 beds at the hospital.
He said another doctor had been taking up extra work for six months because of the shortfall on the roster.
But a North Coast Area Health Service spokeswoman said the service was actively recruiting for hospital doctors.
She also said an emergency medicine specialist, working five shifts per week, and two new career medical officers had recently started working on the emergency department roster.
“The area health service has also recently recruited two permanent career medical officers to work in the Ballina hospital emergency department and recruitment efforts will continue to appoint a hospitalist in the near future,” she said.
But Dr Macdonald said the current workload was ‘potentially dangerous’, and that’s why doctors were resigning.
To cover for the gaps in the roster, NCAHS has been hiring locums, and reportedly paying them $2000 a day.
NCAHS would not confirm how much locums were paid.
But Dr Macdonald said locums were not the answer, as it created problems if they admit patients, but then can’t provide follow-up care.
“Something has to be done,” he said.
Dr Macdonald argued there could be a time when Ballina hospital had to close because there were not enough doctors to care for patients.
Ballina MP Don Page admitted the situation at the hospital was not ideal.
He said he contacted NCAHS chief executive Chris Crawford to discuss the issues at Ballina hospital.
“He confirmed that two doctors had recently resigned,” Mr Page said.
“It is always sad to see a doctor leave a hospital. Every time we have a resignation it puts more pressure on the other VMOs.
“The hospital works best if they can have as many full time career medical officers as possible.”
“Certainly we need to get a hospitalist in to Ballina – that is desperately needed.”