Smaller hospitals provide surgery alternatives

SMALLER district hospitals are proving a good option for patients needing low-complexity procedures, either close to home or sooner than would otherwise be possible at larger base hospitals, such as Coffs Harbour or Grafton.

Both Bellingen and Macksville are on the list of alternative hospitals for procedures such as hernias or colonoscopies.

Coffs Harbour general surgeon Bill Ross, said using the facilities of the smaller hospitals was a very good idea in cases of straight-forward procedures.

"It is actually efficient and often cheaper to use the equipment at the smaller hospitals," Dr Ross said.

"Although I am no longer doing it, I quite enjoyed the change and the travel.

"All the staff were very efficient."

Dr Ross said it was practical to offer patients the option of treatment locally.

"But of course patient safety is paramount."

A spokesman for the North Coast Area Health Service said the needs and convenience of patients were the chief criteria determining allocation of surgery.

"Local access and waiting times are taken into account," he said.

"For example, a patient requiring a relatively simple procedure that could be conducted sooner at a district hospital an hour away would be encouraged to proceed on that basis, rather than waiting longer to have the operation at one of the larger facilities, which may even be closer."

Doctors perform low complexity, day-only procedures at Bellingen Hospital, overnight stay procedures are available at Macksville.

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