It had to happen. One of the stoic staff at Manning Hospital is finally speaking out about the struggle to maintain standards and provide patient care consistent with the current accepted standards and guidelines. . . against the odds!

Manning Hospital nurse, let’s call her Miss M, is deeply concerned at the pressure and lack of facilities available at Manning Hospital. 

According to Michael DiRienzo, the CEO of John Hunter Health which administers Manning Hospital, no patient from the Manning Hospital waits more than 48 hours for care at the Hunter. 

This has been consistently disputed by Taree Cardiologist, Doctor Seshasayee (Sesh) Narasimhan, and other medical staff (doctors and nurses). 

‘This can’t go on. It is not only serious, and compromises patients’ health, but it’s so frustrating for the nurses,’ she commented. ‘It’s trying to work with one hand tied behind our back. We can talk all we want but nothing ever gets done because of all the red tape. We try to adhere to the Excellence in Care program and do the best we can, but how can we? 

‘If the nurses on a ward, or in critical care, sign off an IIMS form, it must be acted upon. However it seems to be common knowledge that some of the nursing staff in the wards have been told not to sign off on the IIMS forms but to “manage” patients.’ 

Huge Patient Load

She adds, ‘We understand John Hunter is also under the pump as they have a huge patient care load as we do in the Manning. But when we ask about a cath lab here at Manning Hospital we’re told no, they can’t get cardiologists to staff it anyway, and that’s it’s not feasible. We can’t attract cardiologists to the Manning because we don’t have a Cath Lab!’

The external independent cardiology review completed by Dr Brian Bailey in June 2018 looked at the feasibility of a public-private partnership between the Manning Hospital and the Mayo Hospital in Taree. The review was commissioned by (Health Minister) Brad Hazzard and Michael DiRienzo was given the task of organising a fair and balanced process. He completed the Terms of Reference without involvement of any of the Manning Hospital staff. It appears that this was done to provide Mr DiRienzo with his desired outcome! 

Dr Narasimhan has fought for years to have a cath lab at the Manning Hospital and if not possible, a co-operative Public-Private Partnership agreement with the Mayo (so public patients can be treated the same as private patients). DiRienzo has always refused to consider it even though it makes sense financially and logically. 

Compromising Patients’ Health

‘We always hoped for such an arrangement, but we don’t know what goes on behind doors in administration, we just try to get on with our jobs,’ said Miss M. ‘Every day we feel we’re compromising our patient’s health as they’re not getting treatment, such as angios when they need it. Plus, we’re taking a up a bed when someone else has to wait. It makes no sense to me when you have patients waiting and we’re put on hold. If it’s close to a weekend those patients generally end up having to wait until Tuesday to go down to John Hunter.’

And patients waiting for an angiogram could possibly die of a heart attack or stroke in the interim.

‘We’re just lucky that scenario hasn’t happened…yet,’ she adds. ‘The whole idea is to prevent it!  We’re trying to practise preventative medicine which is difficult when the only resource we have is the John Hunter Hospital which is also under the pump with an overload of patients. They keep saying they don’t have the money to upgrade the Manning, but surely it is worth doing, it will be so much cheaper in the long run. And the catchment area for our hospitals is huge. 

‘Our staff are concerned at waiting to get beds at John Hunter when you see patients who are unwell and struggling, who have to go to JHH for an angiogram and are in their 70s and 80s who may be having a heart attack and need an angio and are sent down in an ambulance then have to make their own way back home, as no transport is provided.’ 

Miss M’s voice cracks. ‘These are senior citizens who have worked for their country, paid their taxes and are now being treated so offhandedly. It’s not right. NSW Health is very short sighted, the whole Manning Valley has grown a huge amount, and yet our hospital still has the same amount of beds and not enough facilities. Our resources and facilities haven’t been upgraded to keep up with population growth. The hospital hasn’t changed but the whole area surrounding us has changed, but NSW Health isn’t looking at that. They keep pouring money into Port Macquarie because it’s a higher economic demographic. If there isn’t some action here, nothing is going to change and because of these problems medical people are not attracted to take jobs here in the Manning. 

Lack of Staff

‘We are so understaffed it’s ridiculous. We make reports but nothing happens. Staff aren’t being trained and upgraded so care is again compromised because we’re under the thumb of Newcastle. 

‘We don’t have enough trained staff. If a patient goes into cardiac arrest in one of the wards you have to deal with it, meanwhile you’re leaving your patient in ICU. 

‘We have to get junior staff in the door and upskill them as fast as we can, make them enthusiastic and try to keep them. You can’t have a young nurse who’s just come in from her graduate program and tell her to go into the labour ward and deliver a baby with a cord around its neck, or push them into theatre and say okay we’re doing open heart surgery, go and assist, or ask them to read a ribbon strip for a heart patient as they don’t know how to read an ECG.

Hospital Gone Backwards

‘And we keep being told about maintaining excellence and care, but how? Since I started here some years ago, the hospital has gone backwards. The area has enlarged to the point where it’s not working like it should and they’ve closed beds as a cost saving but we just have to use them. That’s why our budget looks so bad on paper because we’re having to utilise these closed beds which NSW is refusing to fund so what do we do? Turn patients away?’

What about our state and
federal members?

‘I don’t think they have a clue what’s really going on. They either hide their heads in the sand or don’t want to know. They do photo ops but sure don’t come to the hospital and speak to the nursing staff to find out what’s going on. I respect our GM but she struggles, trying to please everybody but she knows we’re falling short. She’d love to have more staff, do more, but well, she’s under the thumb of Newcastle, that’s our biggest problem. I wish NSW Health would come and have a look, on the ground, talk to staff who should be allowed to say it like it is.’  

She pauses, then says quietly, ‘We still have passion and empathy, we care and want to give the best to our patients, but we would feel rewarded if we could help our patients more. 

‘It is very frustrating and painful for us to see that our patients aren’t getting the care that they deserve.’

Over to you Mr Bromhead and Dr Keegan! 

Dr David Gillespie is on record washing his hands of the Manning Hospital issues as he is a Federal Member and defends his inaction by stating that health is a State matter. 

Hmmm …how does the Hippocratic Oath go again?



  • I agree most heartedly. My dad recently presented to manning base with heart attack good care with benefit of visiting? Sydney specialist. Already has a stint.

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