Mullumbimby Hospital faces cost cuts.
Mullumbimby Hospital faces cost cuts. Northern Star Archives

Cost-cutting for Mullum hospital

MULLUMBIMBY Hospital's emergency department doctor may be replaced by a video-medicine system late at night under a proposal being considered by the Northern NSW Local Health District.

Nursing staff were advised on April 27 that a proposal to no longer have a doctor working in Mullumbimby Hospital's emergency department after 10pm was under consideration to save money.

Nurses have called a meeting to discuss the plan for Saturday afternoon amid concerns patient welfare may suffer as a result of more having to be transferred to Byron Bay or Tweed Heads hospitals.

NSW Nurses Association rep- resentative Nola Scilinator said: "I get the impression from the local health district that they're really pushing it (the doctor being removed)."

She said she was surprised by the proposal given that it came in the wake of the closure of Bonalbo Hospital's night emergency department and Coraki Hospital remaining closed after sustaining storm damage.

She said she could not help but wonder what other service cuts may be in store for the Northern Rivers.

Health district chief executive Chris Crawford said, under the proposal, doctors at Tweed Hospital would assess patients at Mullumbimby Hospital's emergency department via a telemedicine video-conferencing system called The Connecting Critical Care System.

The night medical officer at Byron Hospital would also support the Mullumbimby emergency department, Mr Crawford said.

"An average of around two patients per night attend the Mullumbimby Hospital ED."

Mr Crawford said while a decision had already been made to introduce The Connecting Critical Care System, consideration would be given to the results of "the consultation process" prior to any decision being made about scrapping the doctor.

Ballina State MP Don Page said he had been told there would likely be a five-month trial of the teleme- dicine system starting on July 1.

Mr Page said he had spoken to a doctor who agreed the $145-an-hour paid to emergency department doctors could be better spent at Mullumbimby Hospital where there was low patient demand.

But Mr Page predicted the scrapping of the doctor would cause concern in the community.

"If they think the money would be better spent I'd like to see those savings spent at Mullumbimby Hospital," he said.