Emergency department half-staffed

GRAFTON Base Hospital (GBH) emergency department filled less than half its optimal roster during the Christmas period, according to figures supplied by a local doctor.

The doctor said eight or nine doctors are needed each shift to man the emergency department.

However, the North Coast Area Health Services (NCAHS) admitted only four doctors, three of which were locums, were available on Christmas Day.

“Grafton Base Hospital, like many rural hospitals, has challenges recruiting to permanent emergency department medical positions,” a NCAHS spokesperson said.

“On Christmas Day, GBH had four doctors rostered for the 24-hour period. Three of those were locums.

“GBH follows NSW Health policy directives relating to locum medical officers which set locum rates at no more than $130 per hour or $145 per hour where a medical practitioner has more than five years full-time postgraduate clinical experience.

“In addition, it is normal practice to pay travel and accommodation for locum medical staff.

“The three locums working on Christmas Day received payment as per these guidelines.”

The doctor said that staff shortages in emergency were not limited to the Christmas period, although it was harder to recruit locums at this time.

“The hospital has to find locums throughout the year because there are not enough doctors locally,” he said.

He said the hospital found doctors where it could, with cities such as Sydney and Melbourne not out of its reach.

On Christmas Day, GBH had four doctors rostered for the 24-hour period.



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