Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Continuing troubles at Bellingen Hospital

Just a very short one today.

I see that the problems faced by Bellingen Hospital have now made the Sydney Morning Herald. Reading this story and all the previous stories over recent months, I do wonder about the North Coast Area Heath Service.

I don't mean anything sinister by this, nor is it a criticism. It's a genuine question.

Looking back, it's an interesting case of a problem that seems to have spiraled out of control. The Area Heath Service has made several statements and has apparently sent representatives to Bellingen, but things just seem to get worse.

I don't believe that North Coast Area Health Service staff are either incompetent or uncaring, yet they really seem to have been blind-sided. In saying this, I accept that I am working from imperfect information.

The North Coast Area Health Service is a big organisation. I do wonder whether in trying to run a big system under financial constraints that effectively force them to rob Peter to pay Paul, the small Bellingen Hospital was simply so far down the pecking order that they couldn't focus until too late. And then they tried to temporise.

Looking at the newspaper reports on obstetric services, for example, the Area Health Service appears to have stated that it did not intend to close them, but were struggling to find trained staff. There were no reports that I found that explain what they were doing to resolve the problem. In the meantime, obstets at Bellingen has been effectively closed.

From the viewpoint of locals, there appears to have been a constant gap between official statements and the way that things are actually working out on the ground. The result is a loss of trust.

In saying all this, I emphasise again that I am working from limited knowledge. While I know a bit about the world in which the North Coast Area Health Service has been forced to work, I simply don't know enough about its internal workings to be sure of the dynamics.

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