It’s rather “do or die” it seems at Manning Base Hospital.

Beds are so short they’re using the recovery room of the operating theatre as a ward for all the acute cases being admitted from the emergency department. All elective surgery is being shut down, and not only are there no nursing beds available but the Mayo Hospital management has decided to take on elective surgeries from Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie! 

Why aren’t these operations being done in Port and Coffs? Because they are run by Ramsay Health who don’t want to treat public patients in a private hospital. So no doubt Healthe Care who run the Mayo,  saw the opportunity to make big dollars by bussing public patients down to be treated at the Mayo and paid for by NSW Health; ie Us!  It’s especially galling when Manning Base relies on the Mayo to work co-operatively with them. 

Manning Base has reached saturation point and is tied to the Mayo for the next four years yet has been starved for funding and nothing seriously spent on the ole joint for years. Yet hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour hospitals (who come under Mid North Coast Health while we are Hunter New England Health District).  

Yet now we have public elective surgery patients being sent from Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie to be operated on at the Mayo Hospital!

For the past few months dozens of patients are being bused down, not just an occasional patient.  These hundreds of out of area patients are, of course, highly lucrative for the Mayo, yet they are not taking the overflow patients from the Manning Base hospital which is now quite desperate.

Let’s not forget the original Mayo and Forster hospitals were built for the local population. Healthe Care who now own the Mayo are a big organisation which it seems, keeps an eye on the bottom line before all else with management  ‘gilding the lily” as one doctor put it to us.

The Mayo gets more money for doing a knee or a hip replacement than taking up a bed with a geriatric or rehab patient from Manning Base hospital. Local physicians are at a point of not even trying to get a patient into the Mayo. So these patients are filling Manning Base beds so when an emergency comes into Manning Base there’s nowhere to put them!

The fault appears to be that a coherent management clinical plan had not being done for years let alone enacted. 

For years Hunter New England Health in Newcastle appear to have abandoned Manning Base or shoved it to the bottom of the “to do/fix” list. Lack of updated facilities and equipment, the need for highly experienced admin staff and management, a lack of Registrars, plus a few shocking scandals,  have meant Manning Base hasn’t been top of the list to recruit top professional medical staff. 

Playing catchup means out of the 100 million dollar budget, there is 10 million dollars available to make a plan which roughly spins out to approximately 6 months minimum to do, another six months for schematic design, 6 months for the master planning, 6 months for builders and construction people to sign up, and a year or two to build. That’s all with no hiccups. Good luck.

This should have all been done several years ago when the last clinical services plan ran out. 

After the recent excoriating parliamentary enquiry into Regional and Rural Health Mr Michael Di Rienzo from HNEH is now at last listening and consulting with Manning Base physicians and  the local  group – the Manning Great Lakes Community Health Action Group  led by President Eddie Wood, Peter Johanson Vice President,Carmel Bartlett  Hon Secretary, and Helen Halpin  Treasurer. The rest of the group consist of four retired nurses, one retired teacher, two paramedics ( one retired and one still working) an accountant / business woman and a financial planner … so nine on the committee, with a combined total of 231 years clinical experience , and  just over 1000 members with 7000 signatures supporting their cause to petition the government for increased funding and services. They are keen to point out that their Health Action group has always supported nurses, doctors and  all categories of staff at the hospital in doing their job under difficult circumstances , and have never criticised them. 

President Eddie Wood points out – “We are an apolitical group now going into our 6th year and have had discussions with CEO of HNEH Michael DiRienzo, Lyn Fragar Chair of the Board, Senior Nursing Management, General Manager, senior Medical Officers, and politicians  Dr David Gillespie, Lesley Williams, Luke Foley, Michael Daley, Walt Secord , and once our only meeting with Stephen Bromhead, over 5 years ago.”

No doubt without the ongoing pressure from this committee Manning Base would not have had the increased funding, the MRI scanner , and the Clinical Services Plan which expired in 2017 brought up to date. 

Unfortunately although Mr Di Rienzo invited the group to a briefing of the Clinical Services Plan, he is refusing  to release the document in its entirety as he states that it is an internal document , which he will discuss with the stake holders and he does not want the community to be confused and misconstrue what is in it.  

This is considered an insult to the 94,000 members of the Manning Great Lakes Community who are all stakeholders.  The Action Group point out that other health services have their Clinical Services Plans freely available on their websites for all to see … So why is our area any different? 

One would think we were in a prime position to have all the help we need with our Federal Member, Dr ( as in medical) David Gillespie now appointed the Minister for Regional and Rural Health. 

However Dr Gillespie has rarely been forthcoming with help for the Manning Base Hospital declaring it is a State issue which falls into the lap of Local MP Stephen Bromhead. While Mr Bromhead is front and centre in photo ops and trumpeting government handouts, his modus operandi on most complaints is to write that he has noted your concern and forwarded the information further up the line. So rarely is anything ever heard of the matter again. Come election time however, he is quick to spruik all he has done for the Manning Hospital – like a new parking station, and “plans are underway” for its future, and a possible big hospital in Forster. We are told by medical staff and others this will never happen. Mr Bromhead is also adept at charming residents in retirement homes, remembering the majority of our LGA population are over 60 years old. 

Now Nursing Homes fall under the Federal umbrella so as Regional and Rural Minister for Health the locals want Dr Gillespie to be responsible for his own backyard. 

And while well meaning community groups politely negotiate, the medicos want some serious action, NOW. And frankly, so do the local and surrounding community who rely on Manning Base – our hospital.  

So full marks to all the staff and those struggling to keep the joint sort of functioning. 

We asked the Mayo Hospital Taree for a comment and received the following –

“As a group, Healthe Care Australia has been supporting the COVID-19 response across New South Wales and Victoria; redirecting over 100 Nurses and staff from our hospitals to the areas of greatest need, including the Vaccination Hubs and Special Health Accommodation in Sydney, COVID Wards at hospitals across the state, and on the frontlines in regional and remote areas. 

Staff from both Mayo Private and Forster Private Hospitals have been involved in these efforts, as well as the ongoing treatment of elective surgery patients from the Manning, Hunter New England and surrounding local health districts, to help reduce the burden on the public hospital system. 
Mayo and Forster Private have a longstanding relationship with Manning Base Hospital, and will continue to support the treatment of patients that are deemed suitable for private hospital care. We remain committed to working alongside NSW Health to provide resources and support in any way we can.”

Kind regards
Benjamin Uprichard
Regional Chief Executive Officer, Mid-North Coast NSW, Forster Private Hospital | Mayo Private Hospital

A spokesperson for HNELD  said –   “The District has a pandemic plan in response to COVID-19 for all facilities, which was updated in 2021 and remains current.

 During 2020, we sourced additional equipment, including ventilators to address the surge in intensive care patients, should the pandemic spread across the region. We also have plans in place to surge staffing and intensive care capacity if and when it is required.

Each hospital has a plan to provide ongoing care to a patient with COVID-19 or transfer that patient to a suitable hospital within the District. Our facilities also have suitable clinical spaces to appropriately care for patients with COVID-19, and our larger hospitals have identified surge capacity to accommodate larger patient numbers in wards, ICU, the emergency department and Hospital in the Home (HITH) service, if needed.”

And from Dr Gillespie – “I’m happy to take up these matters with Steve Bromhead MP, as the operation of the local health district hospitals falls within the jurisdiction of the NSW Government.

“In relation to the Covid vaccination rollout, aside from the State Government Covid vaccination clinics, at the Federal level we now have a record number of locations across our region in the primary healthcare space, including GP medical clinics, community pharmacies, commonwealth vaccination centres and Aboriginal Medical Services, which are all helping with the rollout.

“As for the upgrade plans at Manning Base Hospital, I understand the NSW Government has announced and has partially completed a $140 mill upgrade of that facility ($40 mill Stage 1 is completed and $100 mill Stage 2 is underway).

“In reference to Forster, as outlined in the 2020-21 NSW Budget Papers Outcomes Statement, funding has been made available to progress that project.”

All we can add is -PLEASE GET VACCINATED. 

And once again, a shout out to ALL our over-worked, stressed and pressured staff at our local hospitals


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