By EMMA CORNFORD
FOR THE third time in four months, patient surgery has had to be rescheduled at Grafton Base Hospital because a locum anaesthetist could not be found.
The lack of an anaesthetist affected four patients who had been booked in for surgery for Tuesday morning.
GBH Executive Officer John Wickham said a November 2004 external review of the hospital recommended the appointment of a third anaesthetist.
However, despite a rigor- ous recruitment effort the hospital had not received any suitable applications and had been supplementing anaesthetic cover with the use of locum anaesthetists.
"This has sometimes proven difficult because of the notable shortage of anaesthetists across NSW, and Australia at large," he said.
"This week we were not able to obtain a locum and had to rearrange the theatre schedule so that the anaesthetist on-call the previous night would not have a morning theatre list on Tuesday morning. This meant cancelling the planned theatre list of four patients."
Local Member for Clarence Steve Cansdell said another major issue facing the hospital was the lack of state government commitment.
"Just before the last election, then Labor Minister for Health Craig Knowles posed for the cameras at Grafton Hospital ... pledging $7 million for new operating theatres," he said.
"Two years on, we are still waiting for action, as are a growing number of locals booked for surgery."