OPINION: With an alleged culture of gagging, lying and bullying, MLHD cannot be trusted on a new hospital

Last September Brad Hazzard and senior MLHD staff journeyed to Griffith after the community erupted angrily on the announcement that Griffith‘s Pathology department would close. After the continued systematic loss of front line services such as orthopedics and the sterilization unit, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The down grading and extinguishing of essential services is occurring right across the Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD). Concerned and informed people are desperately trying to hold together a system which is falling apart.

Throughout the health district, recruitment of staff is poor, declining services and resources are stretched to capacity and the overworked and exasperated staff are forever asked to do more with less. 

Wagga hospital services are expanding but at the expense of other district hospitals. The new hospital now receives a larger intake but again staff numbers and bed spaces are inadequate.

 Sparse population numbers and the tyranny of distance are not good reasons to reduce or downgrade basic essential services.

The Murrumbidgee Local Health District is shambolic and with the alleged culture of gagging, lying and bullying we have made little to no progress in the last 3 months.

The continued loss of front line services and jobs makes it almost impossible to reinstate as in some cases property is sold and people with expertise move on.

We can attract doctors and specialists to regional areas if we have reliable and maintained essential support services. 

To confuse matters, health jobs are advertised but in some cases these are never filled despite good applicants.

The MLHD is self-assessing with questionable and corrupt data which encourages further downgrading of health needs. The lack of consultation with on ground staff further undervalues local knowledge.

The L in MLHD is for LOCAL, but clearly local knowledge and experience is not being recognized or valued.

The MLHD board and associated unnecessary bureaucracy require investigation. Local hospitals need to have their own local boards and be defined as either district or base. A charter of health requirements should to be established, with good corporate governance, fiscal responsibility and an adequate budget for the provision of community health needs.

After all we do pay our taxes and Medicare levies and therefore we reasonably expect decent levels of services and an adequate budget.​ 

Helen Dalton is a Binya farmer. She stood as a candidate at the 2017 Murray by-election. 

MLHD Response:

I write in response to Helen Dalton’s letter that contains a number of inaccuracies that need to be corrected. I am writing to set the record straight. The Murrumbidgee Health District (MLHD) spent a record $589 million in providing quality health care services in 2016-2017. This is an increase of $40.9 million (7.5 per cent) on the previous year. The Murrumbidgee Local Health District is expanding its services so that more patients will be able to access the services they need, closer to home.

Here is a snapshot of some of our current projects:

 The NSW Government has committed $35 million towards Stage 1 of the Griffith Base Hospital redevelopment.

 The redevelopment complements the opening of St Vincent’s Private Community Hospital Griffith in December 2016. Both organisations are in the process of developing service level agreements for sharing opportunities and finding new ways of collaborating with each other.

 The $35 million is in addition to $647,400 allocated to the renal dialysis unit in 2016 and $720,000 to upgrade the maternity unit in 2014.

 Funding of $907,000 to upgrade the Emergency Department at Finley Hospital.

 Upgrades to the Holbrook Health Service ($4.6 million) and Tocumwal Multipurpose Service ($4.96 million) were completed. The Aged Care wing of the Culcairn Multipurpose Service is completed and work is progressing on the acute care area. The first sod was turned on the Tumbarumba Multipurpose Service with exciting redevelopments coming for the residents of Barham and Murrumburrah-Harden.

 A new Renal Dialysis Unit in Deniliquin is currently being built with a temporary unit opened in December 2016.

 Rehabilitation services were expanded for communities in Tumut, Temora and Narrandera.

 A permanent Patient Flow and Transport Unit was established in MLHD.

 The Murrumbidgee Community Care Intake Service was launched in Griffith, Leeton and Narrandera to better meet patient and family needs.

As part of the MLHD continued expansion and development of services for the Murrumbidgee District, the Premier has reiterated her commitment to Stage 3 –which completes the $452 million Wagga Wagga Health Service redevelopment. The MLHD is progressing with its Clinical Service Plans for Stage 3 of WWRRH and the redevelopment of Griffith Base Hospital which have both been actioned in the last three months. For more information on how to build a hospital, I would urge your readers to visit: http://hinfra.health.nsw.gov.au/how_to_build_a_hospital

Across the MLHD we employ more than 3,800 staff across 33 hospitals and 12 community health posts. The MLHD promotes the District as a great place to live and work to ensure we have a skilled and sustainable workforce. We are working with a range of Agencies to recruit staff (medical, nursing and allied health) across Australia and internationally.

Overall, MLHD’s full time equivalent staff has increased over the past two financial years. The MLHD has a strong focus on community engagement with Local Health Advisory Committees (LHACs) actively engaged in health promotion and community education activities across the District. The MLHD Board and that of other local health districts exists and operates under the bylaws of NSW Health and the Health Administration Act. MLHD has local Board members with broad skills who work across the District, for the needs of all people in the Murrumbidgee area.

Finally, may I also take this opportunity to urge the community to get involved with our plans for the future of Griffith Base Hospital. Shortly the Clinical Services Plan will be ready for your feedback and I look forward to seeing your input. Please contact us at mlhd-feedback@health.nsw.gov.au​ 

Yours sincerely

Brett Thompson

Acting Chief Executive, MLHD