December 9 - 16, 2018: Issue 387


Health Chief Admits Northern Beaches Hospital has Struggled Since Opening

The chief of Sydney’s Northern Health District has admitted that the new Northern Beaches Hospital has struggled to care for patients since its opening.

Northern Sydney Local Health District chief executive Deb Willcox said on Friday that it was unfortunate the commissioning phase of the new hospital at Frenchs Forest had been “less than optimal” and there were probably many reasons for it.

“Now it’s true that I think the activity in the (NBH) emergency department and perhaps their ability to open their beds on time, and manage the staffing and the recruitment, meant that there has been a period where, clearly, they’ve struggled with supply,” she told the Annual Public Meeting of the NSLHD at Royal North Shore Hospital.

“None of this is secret. It’s all been in the public domain.” 

NBH anaesthetics head Alistair Boyce resigned last week, following the departures of two of his staff earlier in the week. 

Medical Director Louise Messara also handed in her notice last week and NBH CEO Deborah Latta resigned two days after the hospital’s official opening. 

However, Ms Willcox said the most important thing for the public to know was that the NSLHD’s was giving all its attention to rectifying the problems.

“I think we can see the light at the end of the tunnel now but there’s a little way to go,” she said. 

About 100 people, including doctors, administrators, other staff and members of the public attended the NSHD meeting, which emphasised the highlights of the northern health district’s year. 

Earlier in the week NSW Premier Gladys Berijiklian and Health Minister Brad Hazzard downplayed problems at the new hospital. 

The Premier told ABC Radio 702 on Wednesday that since the NBH’s opening, it had experienced “teething challenges” but it was now “world class”. 

Mr Hazzard was reported elsewhere as blaming a small number of doctors for “talking up the negative”.  

But Save Mona Vale Hospital chairman Parry Thomas told Friday’s public meeting that the community felt its healthcare was in dire straits and the implementation of hospital services had been an abject failure. 

“They’ve totally lost confidence in the Northern Beaches Hospital and they demand that acute services be returned to Mona Vale Hospital and they will work with you to achieve that,” Mr Thomas told the meeting.

“They’re disgusted with the way the Health Minister (Brad Hazzard) has addressed the staff that you employ. 

“We are also appalled at the way the staff have been treated. 

“We very definitely, as a community, are at one with this and will go on fighting until our objectives are achieved.”

Asked why NBH had opened with a shortage of staff, lack of training and procedures, as well as a shortage of supplies, Ms Willcox said an independent verifier had been appointed by the state government and NBH operator Healthscope to determine the readiness of the hospital to open.

“There is a long list of criteria – a couple of hundred – which the hospital was benchmarked against,” she told the meeting.

“We’ve got a very, very complex contractual arrangement and there are a number of obligations that sit with Healthscope and some with us.” 

Bayview resident Nicole Gastrell drew attention to the 2012 petition of nearly 12,000 signatures collected by Newport GP Suzanne Daly and the recent statement signed by 20 other Pittwater doctors - concerned about their patients’ safety with the closure of acute services at Mona Vale.

“I want to know who made this decision because I feel that … it’s really like there’s been a death in the community,” Ms Gastrell said at the meeting. 

“Closing that hospital has left a terrible pall over the people of Pittwater.”

Miranda Korzy - The Greens State Election Candidate for Pittwater