‘Save our hospital – and our town’
Tenterfield residents urge Berejiklian government reverse cuts to nursing hours.
Residents of the New England town of Tenterfield, population 4000, have sent two delegations to Sydney to plead with the NSW Health Minister, Brad Hazzard, to intervene to save Tenterfield Hospital – and the town itself.
Health services have badly deteriorated as a result of cuts to nursing hours and difficulty in finding doctors to work at the hospital (see story page 8-9).
Residents have demanded that staffing levels return to three nurses on each shift.
The second delegation met Mr Hazzard at Parliament House in November, following a delegation to the minister in September.
The second delegation comprised State Labor MP Janelle Saffin and Tenterfield deputy mayor Greg Sauer.
Ms Saffin said she wanted to walk out of the minister’s office with an agreement and time frame regarding doctors and nurses, and cross- border transfers.
More than 200 Tenterfield residents attended a public meeting in November.
Speakers included NSWNMA General Secretary Brett Holmes.
He told the meeting that as a result of staff cuts, nurses were “going above and beyond” what they are required to do.
“HNELHD have them on a ‘guilt’ roster, unwilling to leave their community and colleagues in the lurch,” he said.
No show from the LHD
Senior management of Hunter New England Local Health District (HNELHD) sent an apology, saying “no appropriate senior representative” was able to attend the meeting due to bushfires.
“That left everyone in Tenterfield Memorial Hall on the same page, full of praise for their nurses but labelling HNELHD the worst in the state,” the Tenterfield Star reported.
The Star said staffing levels are “the crux of the matter”.
The paper said the dire state of the local hospital threatened the town’s future.
“With known incidences of people looking to relocate from the town they love to other centres purely due to the lack of medical services in Tenterfield, the growth or even maintenance of population levels could be at stake.
“There’s little consolation in the fact that Tenterfield is just one of a number of small towns throughout the state suffering a health service crisis.
“The others are keeping a keen watch on what a consolidated action from the Tenterfield community on the health department can achieve.”
The paper said the meeting heard “horror stories of patients with life-threatening conditions waiting many hours” to be transported for treatment.
‘Angry and scared’
The NSW Opposition renewed its calls for an urgent independent inquiry into rural and regional health after the Tenterfield Hospital death.
Opposition rural health spokeswoman Kate Washington said people in these areas were “angry and scared” about their healthcare.
“Without doctors on site at hospitals, nurses are under too much pressure and patients are at risk,” she said.
Local Labor MP Janelle Saffin said she supported the NSWNMA’s call to return the Tenterfield roster to 3-3-3.
“The Liberal-National Government gave a commitment to deliver 5000 nurses and midwives to public hospitals in NSW. Well, they can start in Tenterfield, with the 3-3-3,” she said.