There is no policy against transporting Tenterfield Hospital patients north, Hunter New England Health's Susan Heyman clarified at a meeting last week between NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard, Tenterfield deputy mayor Greg Sauer and MP Janelle Saffin.
The minister has now delegated Ms Heyman to remove the apparent roadblock against such transfers, with NSW Ambulances' Dubbo coordination unit a target, before the group reconvenes next week for a followup meeting.
"He wants us all back together next week to report back on the roadblock situation," Cr Sauer said.
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Coincidentally Cr Sauer attended the HNEH annual public meeting in Tamworth last Thursday. Both HNEH CEO Michael DiRienzo and board chair Prof. Lyn Fragar also confirmed there was no such policy.
"They could see no reason that patients aren't going north," Cr Sauer said.
"The minister, CEO and chair are all directing that the roadblock be removed."
Cross Border Commissioner James McTavish is currently renewing the Memorandum of Understanding between NSW Health and Qld Health that supports the interstate transfers that apparently operate seamlessly from Lismore.
Once the Tenterfield cross-border situation is sorted out, Cr Sauer said it's vital for those needing treatment to present themselves to the hospital, rather than driving to Wallangarra before calling an ambulance or risking health and wellbeing with private transfers. Instead they will be transported from Tenterfield Hospital to their location of choice should they need further hospital treatment, and the doctor and receiving hospital concur.
He said this will then help to resolve the staffing issue, with increased admissions supporting calls for more nurses to be rostered on.
"To beat the system, we have to use the system," he said.
"It's not always through the front door."
Cr Sauer and Ms Saffin went into the ministerial meeting with a strategy to isolate key issues: bypassing of the hospital by Tenterfield residents due to cross-border issues; nurse rostering; and lack of certainty of a doctor being onsite.
It is hoped the resolution of the first issue will contribute towards fixing the second, and the minister directed Ms Heyman to ensure a doctor is always available at the hospital. Discussions surrounding the recent death of a man at the hospital during a six-day period with no doctor were curtailed due to the pending inquest.
One particular transportation episode of many is being examined as a test case, where two years ago a women presented to Tenterfield Hospital wishing to be taken to Royal Brisbane Hospital's Oncology Department where she'd been receiving treatment for three years prior. Royal Brisbane was waiting to receive her, but instead she was sent to Tamworth.