The $220 million redevelopment of the Tamworth Rural Referral Hospital is a long overdue project, but will the redevelopment adequately meet a growing city’s future needs?
The president of the Australian Medical Association (NSW), Associate Professor Brian Owler, raised the concerns of doctors when he visited the city on Thursday saying the new facility would have only one additional bed on current bed numbers.
This begs the question: will the redeveloped facility be a hospital for the future or a hospital for the present?
The hospital is being redeveloped to a budget, but is the budget adequate to meet the future needs of a facility which will continue to grow in importance and which will have a developing medical infrastructure?
The completion date of 2017 is five years away and in that time the city and district’s population will have hopefully continued to increase. Current trends indicate this will be so.
Smaller hospitals in the region will have diminishing roles in the provision of health services and the larger referral hospital will continue to take on a heavy workload.
During his visit Professor Owler raised some important points. He said increased resources, the new cancer centre and an ageing population would result in more admissions, creating greater demands for beds.
While hospitals have a bed capacity, they do not always operate at that capacity. As a means to save money in a tight budget, hospital beds are often reduced and in some cases wards closed. Let’s hope this scenario is not being factored in to the bed capacity equation.
Patients spending the night in accident and emergency or having elective surgery delayed because of bed shortages is not uncommon these days.
There is an argument that with the advancement of medical procedures people will tend to spend less time in a hospital bed. Due to the risk of infections there is also a view that it is best to get patients in and out of the facility as quickly as possible. But this does not necessarily equate to reduced demand on bed capacity.
This aside, the doctors know what they are talking about and it is reasonable to expect the planners and health service managers will engage with the frontline service providers to resolve this important issue.
A new hospital without an adequate number of beds and public car parking spaces will fall well short of xpectations.
Can we have some guarantees please?