”Shadow of Bundy”: Hospital plan leaves Bay behind says GP
HE'S been a respected doctor through some of the biggest shifts in medical needs across the Fraser Coast.
Now, Hervey Bay GP of 34 years Dr Paul Neeskens is concerned plans for a Level 5 hospital at Bundaberg leave local patients behind.
His comments come in the wake of a presentation by the region's health chiefs to the Hervey Bay chamber of commerce and as Fraser Coast councillor David Lee launches a campaign for the best hospital services in the Wide Bay to be here, where it makes more sense geographically and there's rising population and poor planning pressure.
"I think it's disappointing (the health chiefs) aren't planning on more upgrades on Hervey Bay and Maryborough's hospital," Dr Neeskens told The Fraser Coast Chronicle.
"It would seem, the 2018 to 2022 plan, which is publicly available, to have Level 5 services in Bundaberg … leaves Hervey Bay behind.
"In the past few years, the bed numbers in Hervey Bay are growing in comparison to Bundaberg.
"The population is growing in this area, it's just disappointing that we can't have those Level 5 services in Hervey Bay,
"It's clear that the plan is to make Bundaberg the centre of services in the region and the problem with that is, from Hervey Bay hospital to Bundaberg is 116.75 kilometres, it is not just 30 kilometres down the road … it's reasonable to say 116.75 kilometres is a long way, and a lot, for people to be travelling."
The determination of politicians and WBHHS to push forward with Level 5 at Bundaberg because it seems they don't want to back down from a previous commitment to build it there, also doesn't sit well with Dr Neeskens who believes this is at odds with the approach on the Coast.
He questioned why the service hadn't stood by a cardiology commitment which would have allowed for the potential for stents and pacemakers to be put in here, and said he had "no idea" how they got away with that.
"It's a cardiological intervention that's really quite common, putting in pacemakers and they haven't done that (for Hervey Bay hospital).
"That's what the plan was, there was a budget commitment of $2.8 million dollars in the funding services plan to provide interventional cardiology and it hasn't been done.
"(Wide Bay Hospital and Health Services Chief Executive Deborah Carroll) said the money has gone into general income, 'absorbed into general running costs', I think were her exact words."
Ms Carroll responded by saying WBHHS was "committed to providing more specialist services closer to home, when it's safe and clinically appropriate to do so".
She also flagged other past advances including the launch of a Cardiac Investigations Unit at Hervey Bay Hospital, through a $2.8m partnership with GenesisCare in September 2019.
"There has been no reduction in services delivered," Ms Carroll said
"Medical teams in the Cardiac Investigations Unit use state-of-the-art equipment to provide services ranging from echocardiography and stress testing through to cardiac CT angiography.
"We acknowledge that some time-critical patients may still need to be transferred to tertiary hospitals in Brisbane or the Sunshine Coast for urgent cardiac procedures.
"Previously, Fraser Coast patients had to travel to tertiary hospitals in Brisbane to receive the majority of their cardiac care.
"The $2.8 million cost for access to these services had previously appeared as a line item in our service agreement with the Queensland Government, but is now included in our general budget to fund the public-private partnership."
Dr Neeskens also couldn't see the sense in the fate of Hervey Bay and Bundaberg patients being entwined and controlled by state money when they weren't even in the same state electorate.
"There's no historical link from Hervey Bay to Bundaberg, except for the fact that we're in the same federal electoral, we're not in the same state electorate," he said
"It's just a shame we seem to be left behind and put into the shadow of Bundaberg."
Ms Carroll maintained "we acknowledge the Fraser Coast's growing and ageing population, and it's a high priority for us to proactively manage future growth at our Hervey Bay and Maryborough hospitals".
She also pointed to recent investments including the $39.61 million, 22-bed mental health acute inpatient unit in Hervey Bay and a repurposed 10-bed inpatient facility at Maryborough Hospital focusing on older people's mental health, the $44.66 million Hervey Bay Hospital Emergency Department and refurbishment of the old ED into a new 19-bed medical unit, $12.19 million upgrade to Maryborough Hospital's emergency and specialist outpatient departments.