Glen Innes Hospital: Is there a problem?

Late last year, we were concerned when patients were turned away from Glen Innes Hospital one weekend.

It was late November, and the incident, when a visitor from Brisbane arrived at the emergency department on a Saturday night and was told nothing could be done to relieve the severe pain from a double hernia.

We recall that patient, because it was their plight that brought it to the attention of state MP Adam Marshall, who held meetings with Hunter New England Health after expressing his outrage.

Meanwhile, in the following weeks, local doctors assured the Examiner that the incident, which was caused by a locum not turning up for duty, was an isolated case, and that a local doctor was soon on call to fill the void on that last weekend of November. We only mention this case, as we believe it helps explain why a petition with 500 signatures has called for a doctor to be on duty at the hospital 24/7.

Those signatures were collected in a very quick time. That is not such a great surprise, as health facilities and our hospital are very important to our community.

But what happened late last year is still fresh in our minds.

When Greens MP Dawn Walker visited Glen Innes recently, she has said she was shocked to learn that there is not a 24-hour doctor on duty at our hospital, which prompted the petition.

The Greens this week revealed they would be tabling that petition in parliament, where it will require a response from the NSW Minister for Health, Brad Hazzard.

Currently, our hospital uses an on-call system, where doctors are contacted for emergencies that cannot be looked after by the nurses in the emergency department.

Our hospital averages 13 presentations to the emergency department each day, and patients are triaged according to how serious their illness or injuries are. They are looked after by our nurses, and the more serious cases see a doctor called in.

If what happened last November was a consistent problem at our hospital, we would be supporting calls for our doctors and locums to be rostered on at the hospital 24/7, but is the current system that bad that change is required?

We look forward to the response from the health minister, but suspect his response will be there are no major problems with the current system of staffing the emergency department.