Trauma patients not accepted

GRAFTON Base Hospital will have multi-million dollar emergency medical wards by the end of the year, but may not have any patients to treat.

The latest NSW Health trauma plan, released in December, has put in place guidelines that require trauma patients (people with injuries) to be taken to designated trauma hospitals. Coffs Harbour and Lismore hospitals are the closest to Grafton.

However, doctors at Grafton are worried that this does not provide optimal care for patients.

The chairman of Grafton Base Hospital Medical Staff Council, Allan Tyson, was told of a recent road accident at Ulmarra in which a Victorian man was injured.

“The specialist at Coffs Harbour said why didn’t you take the patient to Grafton,” Dr Tyson said.

“He had severe bone and brain injuries and was not breathing properly.

“He was taken by road ambulance to Coffs Harbour. It’s a case of one hour, 20 minutes versus seven minutes (to Grafton).

“If a patient is not breathing properly that’s a long time. That’s an example of a problem the department needs to think about.”

Dr Tyson said the young man died from his injuries. He doubted the delay in getting him to hospital was responsible.

He said there was merit in the premise behind the trauma plan.

“Patients who have a big accident do better in a hospital where everything is instantly available for them,” Dr Tyson said.

“The problem is that the patients aren’t there. They don’t have the accident at the front steps.

“So somehow we have to have a divergent system so we have hospitals that have greater and lesser facilities at them and some of them we want to designate as trauma hospitals.

“For example, if you fall out of your car at Ulmarra and you break a couple of legs and your pelvis and crack your head you might do better where you’ve got the bone doctors to look after you and that might be in Lismore and Coffs Harbour.

“But if you’re not actually breathing and you don’t have an airway you might be better to go to the place closest that can give you an airway.”

Dr Tyson said this is an issue that needed to be clarified.

“They say there are going to be teething problems, but the teething problems are very significant,” Dr Tyson said.

The Daily Examiner put questions about these issues to the North Coast Area Health Service. In an emailed reply late on Friday afternoon it said it could not answer the questions and directed us to the NSW Health Media Unit and to the NSW Ambulance Service. An Ambulance Service spokesperson said the service was a part of NSW Health and was unable to comment on the issue.

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