By ANN-MARIE MAY
THE waiting time may soon lessen for Coffs Harbour residents needing elective surgery, but is it just another empty promise in a long list of disappointments?
On the back of criticism from member for Coffs Harbour, Mr Andrew Fraser, on the waiting list increase, chief executive of North Coast Area Health Service (NCAHS), Chris Crawford, said there were detailed plans in place to increase elective surgery in Coffs Harbour.
"Coffs Harbour Health Campus has been experiencing increasing pressures on elective surgery because it has been without a regular urology service for more than 12 months, and has been facing difficulties in attracting an ear, nose and throat specialist," Mr Crawford said.
Mr Fraser slammed the Carr Government this week, saying that in December, 2004, at Coffs Harbour Health Campus, 1290 people were on the waiting list (up 20 per cent from the previous year).
He said 54 of these had been waiting for more than 12 months.
However, Mr Crawford said things were on the turn-around, with two urologists being appointed.
"Despite the national shortage of doctors, the health campus has been successful in recruiting Dr Mark Morrissey, who will begin performing surgery on February 28, and Dr John Wheelahan will recommence performing surgery on the same date," he said.
"In addition, a second ear, nose and throat specialist, Dr Patrick Allwright, will commence next month."
Dr Allwright will join Dr Adrian Hulcome.
However, Mr Fraser said while these appointments were a step in the right direction, he remained sceptical, saying they had been on their way for two years.
"I wouldn't have liked to be holding my breath waiting for these specialists to come," he said.
"We need a guarantee that once these specialists arrive, they will have proper access to the hospital.
"What we also need is more money and more beds to open. There are currently 20 beds just sitting there."
Mr Fraser said the new health campus was running at a lower capacity than the old hospital.
"The hospital has the capacity, all we need is the money to run it," he said.
"We have a great hospital that doesn't want to let the patients in to muck it up."