NSW Nurses' Association representative Nola Scilinato
NSW Nurses' Association representative Nola Scilinato

Tele-health needs doctors

THE Local Health District's own guidelines for tele-health state it should be used only in conjunction with a doctor, despite a controversial proposal for the system to replace overnight emergency doctors at Mullumbimby Hospital.

Page seven of the Northern NSW Local Health District Connecting Critical Care (CCC) Emergency Department Program draft guidelines states in bold: "The CCC videoconferencing camera must not be seen as a replacement for on-site medical consultation. Seriously ill or injured patients require the doctor on call to be on site and as rapidly as possible".

The guideline document was authored by Connecting Critical Care project officer Kerry Spicer and published in March this year.

NSW Nurses' Association representative Nola Scilinato agreed wholeheartedly with the draft guidelines and said they should be enforced, as they were written by a clinician presumably after extensive consultation and research.

Ms Scilinato said the original intention was for tele-health to be an adjunct to doctors, not a replacement.

She said she hoped health care delivery in the Northern Rivers was being decided by clinicians and not bureaucrats such as local health district CEO Chris Crawford.

The Save Mullum Hospital Steering Committee president Frank Lynch said it would be negligent to operate telehealth without an onsite doctor.

But Mr Crawford said the guidelines' wording was mostly applicable to hospitals with "fairly high" levels of activity.

He said they could be "modified" for less busy hospitals like Mullumbimby, but only after community consultation and a tele-health trial.

Mr Crawford has agreed to front the third protest meeting against the proposal to scrap late night emergency doctors at Mullumbimby High School auditorium on Thursday, at 7pm.

"We're listening very hard (to the community) and that's why we're going to this meeting," he said.

"Some good arguments have been raised about where there might be problems (with tele-health).

"It's been a very good consultation so far."