Bundaberg Regional Council's executive director of economic development and strategic projects Ben Artup and mayor Jack Dempsey.
Bundaberg Regional Council's executive director of economic development and strategic projects Ben Artup and mayor Jack Dempsey.

HEALTH CHECK: Why council’s calling for Level 5 commitment

BUNDABERG Regional Council is calling on local state candidates to commit to a new hospital with Level 5 services.

Bundaberg Mayor Jack Dempsey spoke outside the Bundaberg Train Station, urging candidates from all parties to step up for the hospital.

He said in Rockhampton they had about 28 Level 5 services in comparison to Bundaberg’s services.

The current hospital is a Level 4, offering predominantly Level 4 services and some Level 5 services, including acute and community mental health services, acute pain and medical oncology.

Level 5 radiation oncology and some cardiac services are also provided locally for public patients through public-private partnerships.

The NewsMail recently reported on the services pegged for an upgrade with the new hospital.

While it was still unclear exactly which overall level the new facility would be, Wide Bay Hospital and Health Services Board chair Peta Jamieson previously told the NewsMail areas where local capability could be upgraded included: intensive care, emergency medicine, renal medicine, cardiology, general medical and surgical services, and other subspecialties such as endocrinology and gastroenterology.

Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service Board Chair Peta Jamieson.
Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service Board Chair Peta Jamieson.

However, she said there would always be situations when patients may need to be transferred to tertiary facilities due to their clinical needs.

Cr Dempsey said while they’re waiting for the plan to come to fruition, they’re calling on the candidates to step up and commit to a new hospital with the Level 5 services the community needs.

“If we keep procrastinating this over the decades, we’re going to be in the same situation where we’re spending tens of millions of dollars on the medical express – either the train for the buses – sending suffering people from Bundaberg to the South East to be able to have their medical needs met,” he said.

He said in a modern day, that wasn’t good enough.

Cr Dempsey said having specialists in Bundaberg would be good for the region’s health, economy and meeting the needs of a growing community.

“With the present site we’re actually asking the candidates to look for a way to be able to see that area compensated elsewhere for it’s environmental value in the Bundaberg region.

“So when that site is cleared we know that currently it is set aside for environmental purposes, we’d like to see another uptake of a similar area to be able to get those environmental benefits for the community going forward.”

Cr Dempsey said they were calling on major, minor and independent parties to commit to a new Level 5 hospital.

“The health services board are working through the current period to deliver a new hospital and we just see this as an opportunity to get it right the first time,” he said.

“Not to be able to have additions and additions onto a hospital facility in the future.”

Bundaberg Regional Council’s executive director strategic projects and economic development Ben Artup said the best models of healthcare around the world have the public and private sector integrated.

Bundaberg Regional Council's executive director of economic development and strategic projects Ben Artup.
Bundaberg Regional Council's executive director of economic development and strategic projects Ben Artup.

“As part of this new hospital we need to see the private sector and the public sector working together at the campus of the hospital to get those benefits from having private and public care delivered in an integrated fashion,” he said.

Mr Artup said these benefits included attracting specialist and higher trained professionals who can work in both sectors.

“We need those specialists, but to get those specialists you need to have a plan in place and design the hospital in the right way,” he said.

“The concern is that we don’t see any improvement in healthcare service delivery in our community; we don’t see those Level 5 services added to the mix that we need and that we don’t attract those specialists and those jobs that come with that type of opportunity.”

He said while it was a bit of catch-22, they needed certainty upfront that there would be a Level 5 hospital with services to attract and train people to deliver those services.

“A Level 5 hospital is a teaching hospital by definition,” he said.

The preferred site for the new Bundaberg Hospital.
The preferred site for the new Bundaberg Hospital.

Mr Artup said to have CQU and UQ were working with Wide Bay Health to develop a medical program as part of the hospital was “essential” to being a Level 5 hospital and attract other academics and research specialists to Bundaberg.

In the council’s 2020 Advocacy document they called for the state government to commit to funding and delivering a level 5 hospital in Bundaberg as part of an integrated health and education precinct by 2026/27.

The NewsMail asked candidates if they would commit to Level 5 hospital, what site they’d suggest for an offset and how soon they’d like to see construction begin.

Here’s what they had to say:

Bundaberg’s Greens candidate Claire Ogden said The Greens were “campaigning on creating genuinely free health care for all by investing in more doctors, nurses, hospital beds and bulk-billed GP clinics for the community”.

“Planning decisions for new infrastructure projects must always be made in consultation with the community and must be environmentally sustainable,” she said.

Ian Zunker, LCQ Party’s Bundaberg candidate said our medical wellbeing, as a whole, in the Bundaberg area, had been debated back and forth for years.

“Yes, supporting the new hospital is paramount to the community’s health and wellbeing,” he said.

“We would all love a new hospital as the old ageing hospital has been revamped many times. “Let us be frank. This hospital will not be built any time soon.

“As to other sites for the hospital, of the 20 sites put forward for the proposal, these were not publicly released.”

He said to succeed in being like Rockhampton and being a Level 5 facility, “we just can’t build a hospital, regardless of the location, without diverse and skilled staff that makes this hospital what it needs to be”.

“The last few years are a shameful testimony that Bundaberg fails to maintain doctors and specialists because other areas can be so much more lucrative,” he said.

“All this must change to make the dream a reality.”

Mr Zunker said there was little doubt this should have been committed and more proactive a long time ago.

“The people of Bundaberg have again, been let down by the politics of this issue, again being disappointed by the big parties, and will remain vulnerable to future serious illness until government gets serious and stands by their long standing commitment to this community,” he said.

“We know – too many have died alone in Brisbane due to their unrelenting stuff ups in this area,” he said. 

“Let me be your effective eyes, ears and voice in Parliament.”

Bundaberg Labor candidate Tom Smith, said Labor was committed to “building a brand new, state-of-the-art public hospital in Bundaberg”.

“That’s why Labor has so far invested $6.7 million into this project,” he said.

“In July the Premier visited Bundaberg to announce the preferred site – this is another step toward Bundaberg’s new hospital.

“The LNP have committed nothing toward this new hospital.

“They failed to do any planning when they were in government.

“In fact, the LNP sacked 345 staff from Wide Bay hospitals, including 120 nurses.

The Bundaberg community cannot risk an LNP Government.

The only way the LNP can achieve their unrealistic goal of a surplus in four years is to cut services.

“Since 2015 Labor have hired 90 more doctors and 230 more nurses and midwives, 33 more health professionals, and 37 more paramedics in Wide Bay.

“Labor are the only Government who has kickstarted work on a new hospital for Bundaberg.

“For such a significant project, it’s important that significant planning takes place to make sure we get it right.”

The LNP’s incumbent Member for Bundaberg David Batt said a Deb Frecklington LNP Government would deliver a state budget within 100 days of being elected, and fast track the completion of the detailed business case for a new Level 5 Bundaberg hospital.

“I’ve been fighting for this since my first day in Parliament, but we need a majority LNP Government so I can deliver this for my community,” he said.

“More than 80 per cent of people I’ve surveyed want a Level 5 hospital here, so they don’t have to travel away from their family and community to access health care.

“Only the LNP has a plan to clear the Wide Bay region’s surgery waiting list with a $10 million commitment to help more than 1430 locals get the surgery they need.

“Without a budget Labor doesn’t have a plan for a new Bundaberg Hospital.

“Only an LNP government has a plan to get the state working again, so we can pay for vital infrastructure like hospitals for our community.”

The NewsMail contacted representatives of all the Bundaberg candidates for comment.

The detailed business case is expected to be presented to the Queensland Government in 2021 for consideration.

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