NCAHS CEO Chris Crawford.
NCAHS CEO Chris Crawford.

Coffs hospital's ED rescue plan

CHRIS Crawford says there is funding light at the end of the tunnel for Coffs Harbour's beleaguered Emergency Department.

The CEO of the North Coast Area Health Service held talks on Friday with the chairman of Coffs Harbour Health Campus' Medical Staff Council, Dr Alan Tankel, who is also the head of the hospital's Emergency Department.

Dr Tankel and Emergency Medicine specialists at the hospital have been campaigning for more ED doctors for Coffs Harbour, saying the hospital needs another eight full-time equivalents to be on par with other comparable North Coast EDs in towns such as Lismore and Tweed Heads.

Mr Crawford said with all the financial information on the table, he believed they had reached a compromise in dollar terms.

“Coffs Harbour is getting a comparable amount of dollars, but it is not translating into a comparable amount of hours on shift,” Mr Crawford said.

“More overtime hours are also being worked here.

“Essentially we are looking at replacing career medical officers, (who are more expensive) with registrars and residents, which will give the same level of staffing and bring the costs into line with Lismore.”

While it might sound as though Mr Crawford's proposal of more but cheaper doctors could leave Coffs Harbour with less skilled emergency medical services, he said this would not be the case and the number of local emergency medicine specialists would remain the same.

Given that Mr Crawford has just 11 days left at the helm of the NCAHS, which disappears on December 31, to be replaced by the Mid North Coast Local Health Network, he said his decision would take the form of a briefing note.

This would have a positive recommendation to the incoming chief executive of the MNCLHN to provide additional medical ED staffing but change the type of staffing, he said.

The name of the new chief executive is expected to be announced this week.

Mr Crawford said the change in ED may not happen overnight but would be helped by a big increase in the intake of medical students in recent years.

During his final official visit to Coffs Harbour on Friday, Mr Crawford also inspected the Express Care Clinic which opened three months ago at the Coffs Harbour Health Campus. Designed to take pressure off the Emergency Department, the ECC opens into the ED waiting room, is staffed by a clinical nurse practitioner and is open five days a week to see less urgent cases.

While the EEC treats up to 12 patients a day, 40-45 per cent of these cases also need medical input but Mr Crawford said the quantity of medical input required was reduced by the work of the nurse practitioner.

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