SENIOR hospital doctors are accusing Coffs Harbour City Council of failing to forward plan for access to the Coffs Harbour Health Campus and are asking for urgent action to correct the problem.
There is only one access road into the campus, which serves the ambulance, the hospital, the NSW Rural Clinical School, the North Coast Cancer Institute, Breastscreen NSW, Cancer Services Lodge, Shearwater Lodge, the drug and alcohol service, and acute and long-stay mental health services.
In a letter to the Mayor Keith Rhoades, written on March 16, the Medical Staff Council said there would be only one entry and exit for the busy health campus and the new medical specialist facility being built opposite the ambulance station.
This would mean any accident or flooding at the entrance would isolate the hospital and be “potentially catastrophic for the community, as we are the busiest hospital for severe trauma in rural NSW”.
The letter, which was signed by the chairman of the Medical Staff Council, Dr Alan Tankel, the deputy chairwoman, Dr Joanna Sutherland, and Dr Harvey Ward, said that the health campus was the regional hospital serving and paid for by taxpayers.
Dr Tankel is the director of emergency medicine for the campus, Dr Sutherland is the director of anaesthetics and Dr Ward is the head of obstetrics and gynaecology.
The doctors are “strongly recommending” opening a connecting road between the eastern end of the campus and Hogbin Dr or Stadium Dr, a footbridge across Newports Creek to connect with the industrial area in Alison St/Cook Dr, thereby relieving parking stress, and a public transport park-and-ride scheme for hospital visitors.
The three recommendations are designed to relieve traffic congestion and reduce pressure on parking spaces at the campus.
“Coffs Harbour City Council is tasked to serve the public interest in these matters,” the doctors said.
“And given the fact that construction has already commenced at the new medical specialist facility, there is only limited time available to ensure that the community continues to have access to essential services.”
The mayor is on leave and said he had not seen the letter.
He said the Coffs Harbour Education Campus faced a similar problem of having a single access road.
The mayor said that when he returned from leave he would discuss the letter with the general manager.
“Over the years we have talked about a rear access (road),” Cr Rhoades said.
“But I think the ball will be back in the court of the State Government.”
Former Coffs Harbour Mayor Jenny Bonfield said that in the early stages of planning and construction of the health campus there had been discussion of a right-of-way or access to Hogbin Dr because ancillary services at the campus would create traffic difficulties.
“But it was a state project,” she said.
“I don’t know that we had any say on the site.”
The chairman of the Mid North Coast Local Health Network governing council, Warren Grimshaw, said the governing council understood there were issues of parking at the campus and the Medical Staff Council had suggested a back road.
He said in the meantime, the hospital executive had improved the parking situation by providing extra spaces near the NSW Rural Clinical School.
Mr Grimshaw said the governing council would consider parking questions in the context of overall priorities and that he would seek an early meeting with the mayor to discuss the issues raised by the Medical Staff Council.