Health district creates second Maclean hospital forum
THE announcement of a community information session about the proposed changes at Maclean District Hospital by the Northern NSW Local Health District has provoked an outcry among community members and union officials.
The meeting is scheduled to be held on February 26, the day before a previously advertised community forum organised by the NSW Nurses & Midwives Association, which NNSWLHD executive officer Wayne Jones will not be attended by health officials.
"NNSWLHD were not consulted on the date of the association forum and senior executive are not available," Mr Jones said.
Despite not being available on Thursday, February 27 the district has organised its own forum to be held at the Maclean Services Club from 3.30pm-5pm on February 26.
Northern NSW Local Health District's Director Clinical Operations, Lynne Weir, said the meeting would be a good opportunity for people to hear directly from the Health Service about what the change involves.
"We want to reassure the community that this change will not affect the level of patient care or our commitment to the long term viability of Maclean District Hospital," Ms Weir said.
"If you have questions about the ward reconfiguration, please come along. We'll have representatives from both the hospital and the Health District present."
Union delegates from the NSWNMA and HSU have confirmed that representatives from the NNSWLHD were invited to their forum.
When asked whether the additional forum was necessary, Mr Jones replied that they established the forum to counter the misinformation in the community and reassure them that the services at the hospital are not being reduced.
The Daily Examiner asked why the timing of the consultation session was held at 3.30pm when many in the community was still at work, to which his only response was that "If required, we will run an additional community forum."
He did not answer a question on whether the plans could change in response to community opinion, or whether people would be confused by the closeness in dates between the two forums.
"As is standard process, we are engaged in consultation with staff and unions to discuss their concerns," he said to The Daily Examiner.
HSU union organiser Peter Kelly said that it was disappointing that representatives could not attend the meeting that had been planned well in advance by both unions at Maclean.
"What have they got to hide by not attending the meeting," he asked.
Mr Kelly said that union representatives met with Page MP Kevin Hogan at the hospital on Friday, and expressed concerns over the move including issues on dealing with infectious patients, and how to deal with palliative patients with reduced room capacity.
Mr Kelly said that with the National Party proposing a $30m investment in new staff for hospitals across the state, the proposed $300,000 savings from the Maclean Hospital plan was a "drop in the ocean".
"Surely Mr Gulaptis can walk down the hallway in parliament, see Brad Hazzard and get that funding."
Mr Kelly said Mr Gulaptis had told union officials he would be meeting with Mr Hazzard and report back to the unions on discussion.
"The reason we are so passionate about this is that not only do our members work in the hospital, they live in the community and they don't want to see any form of their hospital taken away," Mr Kelly said.
Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis had confirmed before the announcement of the second meeting that he would be unable to attend the nurses union meeting because NSW parliament was sitting.
The NNSWLHD community forum is at the Maclean Services Club on Wednesday, February 26 from 3.30-5pm.
The NSW Nurses & Midwives Association community forum is at the Jim Thompson Pavilion, Maclean Showground on Thursday, February 27 from 6pm.