Ballina Hospital staff say no doctor a ‘savings strategy’

STAFF at Ballina Hospital have rejected the health district's claim that "sick leave" was the reason no replacement night doctor could be found for the emergency department, saying it was more likely a "savings strategy".

"The night shift doctor was on holidays which the hospital knew well in advance," a staff member, who asked not to be named, said.

In a statement released this week, Northern NSW Local Health District director of operations, Lynne Weir, confirmed there were no doctors from 11.30pm to 7am Saturday to Tuesday, but said an additional first line emergency care trained nurse had been rostered on.

"During this period, the average number of presentations to Ballina ED was four patients," she said.

"The total number of ambulance presentations for the four nights was six."

However, the staff member said on Sunday night ambulances dropped off at least five patients.

"These figures given don't include 'walk ins'," they said.

"By Monday morning the ED department was full, even with transfers, let alone patients who had been treated by nurses or left untreated.

"A front line nurse no matter how experienced, is not a doctor ... she can only perform minor functions in the emergency department."

Another staff member said the hospital would still be operating without a doctor from 9pm to 7am for at least another night.

"I suspect it's another savings strategy the district have come up with and probably one they will try to continue," the staff member said.

"I've also been told the district will only pay $145 per hour for a locum doctor, however most agencies start at $165, so for the sake of $20 per hour they are happy to let people die."

The staff members said Friday was the only night the doctor called in sick before going on scheduled leave.



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