Dr Michael Holland to stand in Bega by-election

NSW Labor Leader Chris Minns was in Batemans Bay this morning (December 24th, 2021) with Dr Michael Holland to announce Dr Holland’s candidacy for the electorate of Bega and Labor’s commitment to open the Eurobodalla Hospital at level four status.

NSW Labor Leader Chris Minns said "Community demand is already overwhelming health services in the region. However, Eurobodalla Hospital – the culmination of the merging of the Batemans Bay and Moruya District hospitals – is currently not planned to open with level four status.

"The government’s existing plans for the hospital already includes cuts and reductions to services and capacity.

"With the Eurobodalla Shire Council population forecast to grow from just under 40,000 to more than 45,000 by 2036, local community demand is already overwhelming health services:

Dr Holland has been a strong advocate in his petitioning and representations to see improved health services in the region, continuing to place a spotlight on the fact that Eurobodalla Health Services has to send more than 40 per cent of its patients to hospitals outside the region. Dr Michael Holland, Labor candidate for Bega said this morning “A level four service is needed to meet the increasing demands of our aging population as well as our youngest and most vulnerable residents.

“It will reverse the outflow of residents to other regions for elective care and the more than 100 emergency road or aeromedical transfers per month.

“The Eurobodalla and Bega communities should have equitable access to level four specialist hospital services across all clinical streams; access to outpatient specialist services; shorter waiting times for surgery; improved transport services to health facilities; and the best paramedic and ambulance services.” From the outset of the announcement for a new Regional hospital in the region it has been identified that the planned hospital will be inadequate before it even opens. As it is currently planned, the hospital will not be adequate to meet the community’s already growing needs. Despite ongoing community campaigning and pleading, the government refuses to commit to opening the doors at level four. This was especially evident in the recent visit by the NSW Premier to the district who once again failed to commit to opening the doors at Level Four. Both the Premier and Brad Hazzard have continued to evade the issue by saying the hospital will become a Level Four service but offer no timeline. Below is the latest correspondence from Minister for Health, Brad Hazzard. It is quite clear there is no intention to "Open the doors at Level Four".

Above: an extract from a letter sent by Brad Hazzard 22nd December 2021 Eurobodalla hospital emergency departments already have the highest number of presentations and resuscitations in the Southern NSW LHD. Its maternity services have the largest number of births for a rural maternity service in the LHD, and there is a 12 – 18 month waiting time for paediatric consultations.

Meanwhile the government continues to cut services from what they originally promised.

The government’s delay in releasing the final business plan for the hospital has further fuelled speculation amongst the community and staff of cuts and reductions in services and capacity.

Cuts to the proposed new Level Four hospital Already revealed:

The originally planned 10-bed intensive care unit promised in the 2020 Clinical Services Plan will be reduced to eight.

The Clinical Services Plan indicates that projected renal and oncology beds would normally reach 18 and 12 respectively by 2031, but the government’s new plans proposes cutting those to 15 and 10.

The Eurobodalla Medical Staff Council as well as emergency specialists and nurses have emphasised the need for 20 emergency beds, but the government will only increase emergency department capacity by a measly single bed – from 16 to 17.

The operating theatres have also been cut from three to two theatres plus a theatre sized procedure room in the new model, and the Central Sterilising Unit will be removed, resulting in job losses.

Labor is calling on the government to open the doors of the Eurobodalla Hospital at level four status saying "In order to realise this, the government needs to urgently commence a comprehensive recruitment process to develop the workforce necessary for medical, nursing, midwifery and allied health staff".

Labor is also calling on the government to release its final business plan for the hospital before election day, so that the community can make an informed decision.

Chris Minns, NSW Labor Leader said “A level four hospital would mean residents of the Eurobodalla and Bega communities can have the vast majority of their care in a local hospital without the need for travel or transfer between hospitals, to the ACT or Sydney.

“The community has been united on this. Nurses, midwives, doctors and the community stood up to the Government on a cold and wet Saturday in November to demand opening the doors with level four, and they will not stop until that demand is met.”

Ryan Park, Shadow Minister for Health said “The government has questions to answer about its planned cuts and reductions to hospital services and capacity.

“Will there be cuts to the total hospital beds? Will there be cuts to the beds in the emergency department? Will maternity, paediatric and neonatal beds be cut?” Dignams Creek local Dr Fiona Kotvojs, who has twice run unsuccessfully for the federal seat of Eden-Monaro was endorsed as the Liberal candidate for Bega last week during a flying visit by the NSW Premier. As reported in The Beagle in September 2019 In addition to the provision of a Level Four hospital the South East is long overdue for the radiation therapy that was promised. The lack of such a facility in the South East has resulted in millions of dollars being expended by local residents having to leave the region to seek treatments. Radiation is underutilised in Australia, with just one in three patients offered the treatment compared to one in two in North America and Europe. That means approximately 15 per cent of Australian cancer patients who would benefit from radiation therapy miss out. In 2020, the Federal Government identified Eurobodalla as one of 10 regions to receive funding to deliver regional radiation treatment centres for local cancer patients. Contracts were signed for those regions where suitable tenders were received.

As the tenders received for some regions, including Eurobodalla did not 'tick the boxes' the provision for regional radiation treatment for local cancer patients has faltered. The response of the NSW Minister for Health in September 2019 concerning radiation oncology services in the Eurobodalla is little short of buck passing from a Minister who appears to have little interest in chasing up the promises made by the now Federal Government who made a series of election promises to deliver radiation services to the Eurobodalla. On the 11th April 2019 The Nationals published the following (in part) "Yet we also know that a key barrier to radiation therapy in Australia is not cost, nor its effectiveness. It’s lack of access.Too many Australians – especially people in regional and rural communities – cannot access radiation therapy because they live too far from their nearest radiation therapy centre.

A long drive or bus trip for therapy means time, money and inconvenience for patients at this stressful time in their lives. Through this funding, we can help patients to overcome these issues, so they and their families can focus on what matters – fighting and beating cancer.

The Liberal National Government is committed to supporting regional Australia, and is working with key stakeholders to ensure that the investment is well targeted to support regional population centres that can service their surrounding areas. Rather than meeting their election promise Mr Hazzard instead advised Eurobodalla resident s there are other options such as Canberra or Shoalhaven and if they qualify he might give them a travel voucher. That is a long way from a Federal promise of provision of service IN THE EUROBODALLA. Ms Kotvojs will be given the opportunity to respond. The Seat of Bega by-election is set to take place in February 2022.

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