Are cuts to Batemans Bay Hospital putting staff and patients at risk

Covid cases in Batemans Bay have only added a hefty weight to Batemans Bay Hospital staff anxiety and compassion fatigue. The mental burden has had a major impact but now the staff face a new challenge; having to deal with cost cuts. The Beagle understands that the Southern NSW LHD/Coastal Network have been steadily tightening the funding belt during pandemic at Batemans Bay hospital. Health and Security Assistants (HASAs) are now only offered casual contracts, and there are concerns of unsafe nursing staffing levels at night as Batemans Bay Hospital begins the process of shutting down. It is understood that there are fewer ward patient admissions and that nursing levels are being cut based on number of bodies in beds rather than acuity or special needs of patients. With only two nurses on duty at night the burden builds as unwell patients that have been Covid swabbed remain in isolation until results are available on the ward, sometimes taking days to get results. This presents immediate problems as nurses are supposed to have “buddy” checks of PPE prior to entering isolation room in addition to needing a “runner” to source additional needs once a nurse (or nurses) are in isolation room thereby preventing unnecessary use of excess PPE and increased risk of cross contamination. The night issue also raises concerns around palliative or immobile patients that require two staff to attend basic cares such as washing, linen changes to maintain dignity, administering restricted drugs for pain or distress. It is widely acknowledged across the health industry that there is a marked increase in falls result when confused, delirious or dementia patients cannot be safely observed. This is moreso with only two staff at night. It has been widely proven across NSW health that litigation cost for broken hips or falls that lead to patient death are likely more expensive than the money saved on cutting nursing staff The Beagle understand that, as a result of cost saving measures, Health and Security Assistants only offered casual contracts, some having to support themselves with secondary employment as only working 10hrs/fortnight. Presently there is only one HASA at night to assist nurses in patient care and manual handling. A HASA also plays a vital role in CPR during an arrest when not answering the front door, attending Covid screenings or supporting Emergency Department staff with mental health patients that are scheduled and violent. It is also the role of a HASA to conduct a decontaminate clean of the Emergency Department area after the discharge or transfer of a patient with an infectious disease. Adding to all of this is the requirement of a HASA to drive patients home at night when no other option available. The Batemans Bay Hospital Close Observation Unit is understood to be facing imminent closure with cardiac or more complex patients being transferred to Moruya District Hospital or to remain in Emergency Department at Batemans Bay Hospital. In all concerns are being raised that the costs cuts are placing an increased demand on paramedics who have become "a glorified taxi service at night" and that there is an undue risk of patients deteriorating in a ward when their condition requires the need of a close observation. Of particular concern is the mounting community dissent towards closure at Batemans Bay Hospital that is happening before the first sod is turned on the new hospital site at Moruya. Already being widely discussed are the anomalies in staffing, services and bed numbers of the new facility that are already falling short of what is currently provided.

Above: With the pairing back of the services, beds and capacities of the New Eurobodalla it may well come to being a $200 hospital as the slide above describes, projected during the Zoom meeting about the new hospital Further Reading: An Open Letter by Dr Michael Holland

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