MEDICAL staff at Muswellbrook District Hospital say a plan to solve its emergency department woes by taking over nursing home beds is a ‘‘poor compromise’’.
The hospital’s medical staff council chair Dr Mark Rikard-Bell tabled a signed letter at the February council meeting from 14 doctors at the hospital.
They totally disagreed with a plan to expand the emergency department into the on-site nursing home.
‘‘The emergency department is not as important as the care of the elderly,’’ Dr Rikard-Bell said.
‘‘We have struggled to keep both for many years and resent being coerced into accepting a poor compromise.’’
The Newcastle Herald reported in September complaints that the hospital’s emergency department was grossly undersized.
Doctors say the emergency department needs an estimated $10million facelift but has only got $4million.
Hunter New England Health wants to remove the 18-bed aged-care unit from the hospital’s ground floor to make way for the new emergency department.
However, it has not found a private aged-care provider, and building a new nursing home would be years away.
In the meantime, it is not accepting new nursing-home residents and its interim plans are to use hospital acute-care beds for the elderly residents.
‘‘This will primarily affect the surgical and cataract lists, once again disadvantaging the elderly,’’ Dr Rikard-Bell said.
‘‘It’s probably the worst emergency department in the state and it’s only an extra $2or $3million to fix it properly.’’
Hunter New England chief executive Michael DiRienzo acknowledged it was a difficult situation but said with the growing Muswellbrook population, the new emergency department would be best on the ground floor.
He said they were in discussions with Little Company of Mary Health Care to take over their nursing home licence and would move residents to elsewhere in the hospital when work starts in October.
‘‘No residents will be forced to leave Muswellbrook,’’ he said.
Dr Rikard-Bell has written to Upper Hunter MP George Souris with his objections.