The Northern NSW Local Health District Board will meet in Maclean, at the hospital, today.
The Northern NSW Local Health District Board will meet in Maclean, at the hospital, today. Brendan Ray

$3.7mil Maclean rehab ward will operate at half capacity

2PM: The $3.7million Maclean Hospital rehab unit, which opened yesterday, will operate at half capacity, despite the recruitment of a fulltime occupational therapist (OT).

The chairman of the Northern NSW Local Health District, Dr Brian Pezzutti, said only half the 10 beds in the unit will be used now, with the others to be used on a needs basis.

“It’s not that the beds are a going to be idle, they’re available to be used as general beds,” he said.

“It may be we only need the five, but having the extras there allows for expansion in other areas if the need arises.”

Northern NSW Local Health Network (NNSWLHN) Governing Council member, Brian Pezzutti. Photo Jerad Williams / The Northern Star
Northern NSW Local Health Network (NNSWLHN) Governing Council member, Brian Pezzutti. Photo Jerad Williams / The Northern Star Jerad Williams

Dr Pezzutti said the board had been adamant the ward open and had been dismayed at the delays.

“We delayed opening because we were only going to open half the beds so we were only looking at hiring a half OT position,” he said.

“Believe me we were very pleased to be able to tour the unit on the day it opened.

“Now we’ve got an OT fulltime and I’m told we’ve got a good one.”

Dr Pezzutti said the board was keen to come to Maclean because it was also able to look at the Yamba Community Health Building, which he believed was due to open in a few weeks.

He said the board shared its meeting places around between the major centres of Lismore, Grafton and the Tweed as well as making trips to outlying centres, like Maclean when possible.

Dr Pezzutti said there had also been unforseen delays in choosing a replacement CEO after the retirement of Chris Crawford on December 31.

“We had agreed on someone at the end of last year, but we discovered that person had not disclosed something to us they should have,” he said.

“So we had to readvertise and go through the interview process again.

“We wasted the whole interview period because someone concealed something from us.

“Our head hunters are now checking out the referees of the applicants.”

Dr Pezzutti said the lengthy process to find a CEO was necessary to ensure the right person got the job.

“Once we get someone we’re looking at them staying for 15 years,” he said.

“Of course the board can sack them, but it’s a bad look for a health board to have a revolving door of CEOs.”

UPDATE: ALMOST four years after its construction, at a cost of $3.7<TH>million, the rehabilitation sub-acute ward at Maclean Hospital is now open.

The ward opened yesterday, on the same day the Northern NSW Local Health District (NNLHD) board met at the hospital and board members inspected the newly opened ward.

The $3.7<TH>million ward was built in 2012 in a bid to provide 10 new sub-acute <FZ,1,0,17>rehabilitation and four new palliative care beds in Maclean.

With some excitement NSW regional health parliamentary secretary Melinda Pavey heralded the project as “a wonderful development for the Lower Clarence community” when the funding was announced in November 2011.

But the enthusiasm soured when difficulties in recruiting staff emerged.

A nurse unit manager was employed to run the unit on a salary of more than $95,000 but had taken paid leave “because there is no work for her to do”, a hospital worker said.

In 2014, the hospital began to use the space as a general ward while it waited for staff recruitment.

Yesterday’s board meeting was scheduled for Grafton, but moved to Maclean at the request of the board.

A NNLHD spokeswoman said the move came after a request from a clinician at the hospital, who was making a presentation to the meeting.

The delays in opening the ward annoyed prominent members of the community, such as Grafton’s Bill Dougherty.

He told The Daily Examiner he was aware of patients requiring rehabilitation who had to travel to Ballina and Coffs Harbour for their treatments.

TODAY: The Daily Examiner will interview the board chairman Dr Brian Pezzutti about the future of the health district, including the replacement for CEO Chris Crawford, whose contract expired on December 31.

YESTERDAY: THE NORTHERN NSW Local Health District Board is meeting this afternoon in Maclean.

It is believed it is the first time the board has met at the Maclean Hospital for many years.

The board moves its meetings around its district which extends from Grafton to the Tweed.

Prior to the meeting board members inspected the Yamba Community Health Centre this morning.

It’s also thought they will tour the controversial $3.7million rehabilitation ward in the Maclean Hospital that has not been used for purpose because of staffing issues.

NNSWLHD Board Members

  • Dr Brian Pezzutti (Chair)
  • Dr John Moran
  • Dr Allan Tyson
  • Mr Mark Humphries
  • Professor Lesley Barclay AO
  • Ms Rosemary Kew
  • Dr Jean Collie
  • Dr Joe Ogg
  • Dr Sue Page
  • Ms Leone Crayden
  • Mr David Frazer
  • Ms Debbie Monaghan
  • Mr Malcolm Marshall

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