Health sells shake-up

By TOBY WALKER

CLARENCE Valley residents will have access to all but the most specialist medical services without having to travel to Sydney or Brisbane if recommendations contained in a new North Coast Area Health Service (NCAHS) plan are implemented.

According to the NCAHS' Health Services Care Plan, hospitals between Maclean and Macksville would be able to provide patients with most of the services they require within a single Coffs-Clarence network.

The plan, which is still in its draft form and has been made available for public comment, proposes to create a network comprising hospitals in Maclean, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Macksville, Dorrigo and the Bellingen River.

With about 97 beds, Grafton Base Hospital would be one of the major hospitals in the network, second only to Coffs Harbour Hospital, which with its 208 beds, would serve as the major hub for medical services.

NCAHS Executive Director of Population, Health, Planning and Performance, Vahid Saberi, said the network idea was part of a comprehensive plan designed to predict health trends on the North Coast and how to address them over the coming decade.

He said strategies were being developed to deal with cancer and cardiac problems which the NCAHS believed would remain a major public health concern in 2015.

But he said strategies were also being planned to provide care for conditions like diabetes, renal failure and obesity which were predicted to rise sharply in the next 10 years.

"The big advantage of these networks is that patients can receive 85 per cent of the care they need within the network," he said.

Mr Saberi said a noticeable lack of services like diagnostic cardiology units in the Coffs-Clarence region had led to recommendations being made in the draft plan to recruit medical specialists.

He gave an example of specialist surgeons being employed in the network, most probably based at Coffs Harbour, but being able to travel to other hospitals in the network.

Mr Saberi said the plan's draft form meant further consultation with the public and within the health system would have to be done before services could be costed and prioritised.



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