Health top-up

By Deniliquin Pastoral Times

A returned Coalition Commonwealth Government will immediately invest $1.4 million to upgrade Deniliquin Hospital’s emergency department.

That is the promise made by incumbent Liberals Member for Farrer Sussan Ley, and Minister for Health Greg Hunt.

The $1.4 million will be in addition to the $3.2 million promised during the NSW election campaign by former Nationals Member for Murray Austin Evans.

When in Deniliquin earlier this month, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian stated all of Mr Evans’ promises would be honoured by the government.

Edward River Council Mayor Norm Brennan said the commitment from the Federal Coalition is welcomed.

But he stressed that council and the community still want to pursue a complete redevelopment, or rebuild, of Deniliquin Hospital in the long term.

‘‘Part of our advocacy strategy is for a long term plan requiring $40 million to $60 million for a ‘new’ hospital,’’ Cr Brennan said.

‘‘There are certain people who feel we need a new hospital on a greenfield site, and others who believe there is still room in the existing location for upgrades and additions.

‘‘In our strategy we call for $500,000 immediately for planning and assessment of the existing site — a project viability study.

‘‘We could potentially use some of this Federal money, or even some from the state allocation, to get that progressing.’’

In a joint press release, Ms Ley and Mr Hunt said their funding promise would allow for emergency department upgrades to ‘‘cater for patients requiring specialised treatment’’.

It will specifically provide an improved environment for people with mental health and vulnerable patients, and their families.

The proposed scope of works includes:

●General modernisation to bring the ED to a contemporary standard;

●Creates a functional layout for improved efficiency and patient flow, enhancing ED waiting times;

●Reconfiguration of the ED entry, both ambulance and public entries;

●Creation of a separate waiting room area for patients requiring privacy;

●Reconfiguration of the ED treatment spaces to provide a discrete area for vulnerable patients and their families;

●Provides separation of the ED from the inpatient accommodation.

The Deniliquin Hospital is a 41 bed facility with 26 hospital beds, nine day surgery beds and four maternity beds.

The facility provides a 24 hour Accident and Emergency Department which is equipped with Telehealth cameras to connect the team in Deniliquin with specialists through the Critical Care Advisory Service.

Ms Ley said the upgraded facility will expand treatment capability and improve the patient experience.

‘‘The government’s investment will enable the upgrade of the emergency department which will deliver significant efficiencies within the hospital,’’ Ms Ley said.

‘‘This is particularly important in growing areas such as Deniliquin.

‘‘Through locally targeted funding support, we can ensure New South Wales is better equipped to tackle key health challenges of concern to people in Deniliquin.’’

Local health advocate Shirlee Burge said it is a ‘‘big act’’ for the Federal Government to intervene in a state funded area.

She said this announcement proves to her that Ms Ley does know ‘‘how desperate’’ the local community is for improved health.

‘‘When Austin Evans announced his $3.2 million, most people know that my reaction is that it was still not enough. And when I saw this amount from the Federal Government, I initially felt the same,’’ Mrs Burge said.

‘‘What I see as a real positive in this is the provision for a mental health holding room (in the emergency department).

‘‘I am against all these little top ups (because we need an entirely new facility) but it is important we have some immediate fixes while we still work toward that goal.’’

Ms Ley is believed to have assigned her funding to the emergency department after discussions with Murrumbidgee Local Health District.

The NSW funding allocation is expected to cover a new maternity nursery, theatre upgrade, pharmacy space, relocation of the oncology clinic, creation of a treatment space for paediatric and adolescent patients and a new CT scanner.

The announcement of Federal funding for the hospital comes amidst the Pastoral Times ‘Save Our Hospital’ campaign.

The campaign was formed following Dr Marion Magee’s impassioned roundtable discussions with Ms Berejiklian and NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro when they were in Deniliquin earlier this month.

■Murrumbidgee Local Health District’s response to the campaign was to appear in this edition, but MLHD has requested more time. The response will now appear in Friday’s edition.