Clinic bled dry

COFFS Harbour's haematology services need a staff transfusion.

The sole staff specialist, haematologist Dr Martin Browne, has stopped taking new patients, which means that people who develop blood disorders (such as leukaemia) or newcomers requiring haematology services have to seek help outside of Coffs Harbour.

Johanna Constable moved from Sydney to Bellingen recently and is one of those people.

"I've been getting blood taken since 2003 because I have haemachromatosis, a hereditary disease which means I have an overload of iron and have to have my iron levels monitored," she said.

"If I don't have them monitored it leads to liver and kidney disease."

Johanna needs to have a venesection (special blood test) every three months.

"The last time my blood was taken was March. I was due at the end of May, so now I am three months overdue and I can't get it done," she said.

"I was referred to Dr Browne, but he's not taking new patients. The Bellingen Hospital can do the procedure in Emergency but I would have to sit there all day until they had time to do it. I work full time (in Coffs Harbour) I can't take a day off to sit in a hospital and wait, so I can't do anything until they call me when Dr Browne starts to take new patients and time is ticking away.

"I am amazed at the lack of facilities in Coffs."

A letter from Dr Browne to a local medical professional, which was sent anonymously to the Coffs Coast Advocate, advised that a reduction in haematological medical staff was the reason why he could not see any new patients.

"In view of the reduction in medical staff it is indeed quite a challenge keeping up with the present review outpatient load," the letter read.

"I would suggest referring your patient to another Haemotology Centre such as Lismore, Port Macquarie or further afield such as Brisbane, Newcastle or Sydney.

"Obviously this is quite an unacceptable situation for patients and medical staff but it is unavoidable with the present staffing levels."

A spokesperson for North Coast Area Health Service yesterday said the demand for haematology services has shown continued growth in recent years, as in other areas of health care.

"North Coast Area Health Service is currently investigating ways of addressing future demand expectations," he said.

"Coffs Harbour Health Campus management is working with the staff specialist Haematologist regarding the treatment of all patients in an appropriate and timely manner."

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