Opinion

We can’t afford delays when it comes to hospital

By Deniliquin Pastoral Times

In the 2007 state election campaign a new police station was promised for Deniliquin.

It took a decade before this election commitment became a reality.

We cannot afford the same delays with urgent works required at Deniliquin Hospital.

While we appreciate the new-found desire of Murrumbidgee Local Health District to work collaboratively in our community to improve health facilities and outcomes, we do so with an element of trepidation.

The reality which needs to be accepted is that MLHD does not have a good record in our community. Its goals appear to have been reducing services wherever possible and avoiding risk at all times. Caring for our community has not been at the top of the agenda.

As a community, we need to be acutely aware of the journey towards establishment of the proposed Working Together For Better Health Committee, which is in the process of being established.

We welcome this development and, like other health advocates, have a strong desire for it to be an active and relevant voice, and unlike its predecessors is able to achieve substantial positive gains in health services and facilities.

However, it must be remembered that this committee was the result of the Pastoral Times’ Save Our Hospital campaign, not born out of a sudden revelation by MLHD that it should work more closely with our community.

As a consequence of that, one could be excused for wondering if the failure of the NSW Government and its bureaucracy to provide a timeline for hospital development works, using the excuse that it wants the new committee to have input, is little more than a delaying tactic.

Remember, this committee is a new and recent development. So it would appear MLHD is telling us it has secured funding for upgrade works at the hospital, but has not undertaken any of the planning required.

That would seem to contradict other NSW Government funding requirements, where quite detailed planning and costings must be presented before any money will be allocated.

In relation to the Federal Government commitment to fund emergency department upgrades, which are urgently needed, we have already been told the $1.4 million is for ‘‘general modernisation to bring the emergency department (ED) to a contemporary standard and functional layout, 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 and separation of the ED from the inpatient accommodation’’.

These seem clear guidelines and it should not require much time to firm up a plan and get the work underway.

We reiterate that we fully support the initiative of the new Working Together For Better Health Committee and look forward to it playing an active role in development of health facilities.

Its first hurdle may be overcoming the tendency of governments and their bureaucracies to use any excuse possible to delay expenditure on funding commitments for as long as possible.