Thursday, October 16, 2008


Why Dubbo's gone to dogs

Natasha Wallace, Health Reporter, smh

October 16, 2008

NURSES have been forced to borrow bandages and medical equipment from a vet to use on patients at Dubbo Base Hospital.

The lack of supplies at the hospital has reached crisis point because of the Health Department's failure to pay millions of dollars in bills.

Do you know more? Are you a nurse, doctor or patient who has been affected? Message 0424 SMS SMH (+61 424 767 764) or email us with information.

The chairman of the hospital's Medical Staff Council, Dean Fisher, said patient safety was at risk.

He said the situation was so desperate that three weeks ago a doctor paid $770 out of his pocket for a few days' supply of reagent - a substance needed for blood tests - because the supplier, Abbott, had refused any more credit to the Greater Western Area Health Service.

An email from the pathology department on September 25, seen by the Herald, said it had only five days' worth of reagent left "due to circumstances beyond our control".

A spokeswoman for Abbott said yesterday the company had suspended supply "for a short time" due to unpaid bills but said it was asked several times to release supply for "critical" tests and it did so.

Dr Fisher said doctors were told surgery was being rescheduled because the hospital had run out of sterilisation fluid for equipment. It routinely ran out of basic supplies such as garbage bags and surgical gloves.

"We've had nursing staff having to go down to the local veterinary clinic to borrow bandages and urinary dipsticks … because the system's broken - and this is on a day-to-day basis. Every day I go to work I have to fight to get my patients into a bed. We have to fight for everything. We've run out of gloves this week," he said.

"It's starting to compromise my work ethics and my colleagues' work ethics in providing a safe environment for patients."

Another company that had suspended supply would not go on the record, fearing its contract would be affected.

On Monday evening the Medical Staff Council passed a motion of no confidence in hospital management and demanded that the Health Minister, John Della Bosca, immediately visit the hospital.

The Australian Medical Association called for an injection of funding for rural hospitals but Mr Della Bosca has refused to rule out cuts to hospitals until next month's mini-budget.

A spokesman for Mr Della Bosca said the area health service had recently paid off $6 million to suppliers, including to 5285 suppliers on October 7. Mr Della Bosca would visit Dubbo but he could not say when. Health Department officials were investigating the late payments, he said.

The area also owed aged and community care provider Catholic Healthcare $2 million, but had promised a payment within a week, an area spokeswoman said.

The chief executive of the area, Claire Blizard, will meet doctors on Monday but would not discuss the financial position or specific claims about shortages. "I have seen reports that doctors and nurses have bought food and other supplies. I thank them for their support but do not wish them to be put in this position again.".. The area service had made payment of local creditors a priority and another payment would be made on Monday night.