Hospital hit by shortage

BALLINA District Hospital will be restricted in the number of patients it can admit this month due to the worsening shortage of doctors across the North Coast, which is rapidly bringing the region’s health care to its knees.

It was reported on Monday this week that the hospital would not be able to admit patients for at least seven days over the next four weeks unless it finds volunteers to fill holes in its doctor roster.

Chairman of Ballina’s medical staff council, Dr Colin McDonald, has confirmed this meant that once critically ill patients were stabilised by the emergency department, they would be transferred to another hospital for ongoing monitoring and care.

He said with Lismore Base Hospital already suffering a critical bed shortage due to all Casino patients being redirected there, Ballina patients could find themselves far away from family and friends at Tweed.

“We are suffering the same problem as Casino Hospital and the reasons are the same,” Mr McDonald said.

 “Over the last two years five doctors have left, and only one has joined us. The hospital has to grovel to get volunteers (to fill the gaps in the roster).”

A North Coast Area Health spokesperson said there had been no shortage of doctors up until last month.

 “The Ballina hospital executive officer advised that rosters have been covered for the last 12 months, including recently during February 2009,” the spokesperson said.

“Due to the nationwide doctor shortage it is not always easy to cover the medical rosters.”

The area health service has advertised for a career medical doctor needed to admit patients, but Dr McDonald said it was unlikely the job would be filled.

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