TAMWORTH hospital could gain just one extra bed from the upcoming $220 million redevelopment, the newly elected Australian Medical Association (NSW) president says.
Associate Professor Brian Owler said that was what he gained from talking to local doctors during his visit to the city yesterday, the first day of a regional tour.
If this was the case, there could be issues managing elective surgery patients and admissions from the emergency department, he said.
Association Professor Owler told The Leader the extra resources of the hospital and the cancer centre, while a major benefit, would also see more admissions and result in greater demand for beds.
While he acknowledged it was late in the planning stage of the redevelopment, he said these issues should be considered and addressed.
But he said inadequate capacity was a problem common to hospitals around the state, with an increasing and ageing population likely to exacerbate this.
According to Associate Professor Owler, a shortage of funding and lack of a health infrastructure plan for many years has seen services reach a critical point.
But while there could be problems with capacity, he said doctors at Tamworth hospital had positively reported active involvement in the planning of the new hospital’s design and layout.
The primary purpose of yesterday’s visit was to hear first-hand from doctors, both at the hospital and in general practice, about the issues that affected them.
The foggy start might have cut his trip short, but Associate Professor Owler assured that the doctors’ voices would be heard – he said their input would both inform the AMA’s policy and be communicated to the health minister.
He acknowledged a shortage of doctors was a major issue in regional areas such as Tamworth, and said one of the keys to attracting more medical professionals to the area was to look after junior doctors when they came to such places.
Also on yesterday’s agenda was a visit with New England MP Tony Windsor to discuss some of the federal issues facing doctors in the region, including cuts to GP incentive payments and the government’s health reform.
Associate Professor Owler also planned to meet with Tamworth Regional Council to discuss road safety, an issue he said he was passionate about.
He has been involved with the state government’s Don’t Rush campaign, which he says has been a success in the 18 months or so it has been implemented – last year’s road toll was the lowest since 1946.