Health service fails test

THE state's nurses have questioned a North Coast Area Health Service plan to cut nurse and bed numbers in the region's hospitals in light of new figures showing it had failed to meet performance benchmarks.

New South Wales Nurses Association assistant general secretary Judith Kiejda ? said the latest auditor general's report into NSW Health showed that in 2006-07 the North Coast Area Health Service only managed to admit 78 per cent of patients requiring admission to a bed within eight hours of first seeing a doctor.

She said the department's benchmark for emergency admission performance, which measured the ability to move patients from the emergency department to an inpatient bed, was 80 per cent within eight hours.

"The 80 per cent benchmark is already lenient enough and the North Coast Area Health Service (NCAHS) is even struggling to meet that level with its current bed numbers," she said.

"In these circumstances, how can the NCAHS possibly justify the conversion of 86 current acute beds to surge beds, which are not to be permanently staffed?"

Under the health service's plan, 12 beds and a number of nursing positions would be cut from the Grafton and Maclean hospitals.

"The auditor general's findings are further support for the NSW Nurses Association position that so-called surge beds should be in addition to current beds, not a substitute for current beds."

Meanwhile, a National Party taskforce will be in Grafton today and tomorrow to speak with health industry advocates about the health needs of the region.

Taskforce chair Jenny Gardiner said the health system was in crisis around the state.

Members will be at the Grafton District Services Club from 8.30am-4.30pm today and 8.30am-noon tomorrow.



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