$4m to boost Cairns Hospital
WHEN it comes to running a hospital, an extra $4 million doesn't stretch very far, but it is set to make an important difference to Cairns.
This week, we found out $3.75 million would buy Cairns Base Hospital two specialists, an allied health professional and would increase the number of days cardiac and endoscopic procedures are available, along with the necessary support staff and maintenance required for the increase in services.
The cash also will help the hospital tackle critical waiting lists issues and ambulance ramping.
The first portion of the State Government's promised $15 million over four years for specialists was directed to the areas identified as having the most acute need – gastroenterology, cardiology, neurology and plastic surgery.
Part of the funding will be used to open the cardiac catheter lab five days a week almost immediately, up from two days a week.
A private cardiologist will be brought in to relieve the two public cardiologists and a second radiographer will be recruited.
An extra gastroenterologist will be hired, which will bring the full-time equivalent to 2.3 physicians, and enable the second endoscopy room to open five days a week instead of two.
A second neurologist and another plastic surgeon will account for the rest of the $3.75 million.
Meanwhile, hospital management also committed separate funding to hire the region's first public urologist.
The urgent need to bolster specialists in Cairns was highlighted earlier this month in The Weekend Post when it was revealed almost 800 patients at risk of bowel cancer were being forced to wait up to 10 months for a procedure, despite a recommended waiting time of no more than 30 days.
And The Cairns Post this week reported the most critical heart patients were waiting twice as long as recommended for lifesaving procedures in the hospital's cardiac catheter lab because it opened for only two days a week. But $3.75 million doesn't stretch far enough to include other specialities that are also in dire need of resources.
And the promised $15 million will only fund the positions and services committed to this week. Senior doctors say the $3.75 million in extra funding only covers about 8 per cent of the $50 million funding deficit the hospital had last year compared with Townsville Hospital, despite Cairns Base covering a larger patient catchment area.
"If they're saying there's not going to be anymore cake, then they've got to be more fair about how they distribute it," Dr Peter Boyd, chairman of the hospital's Senior Medical Staff Association said about the State Government and its plans to bring the economy back into the black with job losses and cuts to services.
Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service chief executive Julie Hartley-Jones agreed other specialities also needed a funding boost.
"There are a number of areas that we need to shore up and intensive care is one of them," she said.
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A little goes a long way: The Cairns Base Hospital will use an extra $4 million to pay for specialists and to have services struggling with critical waiting lists open for more days.