Pambula Health Service Community Engagement Committee (PHSCEC) is tackling some tough issues such as the number of beds at the hospital and how the emergency department will operate into the future.
Despite the difficulties of divergent views, good progress is being made in relation to future health services at Pambula Hospital and Health Service, according to Les Stahl, the independent chairman of the PHSCEC.
The committee was appointed with a remit to look at health services at Pambula Hospital, how they might change once the South East Regional Hospital opens in 2016 and the transitional arrangements.
Mr Stahl was appointed earlier this year to chair the meetings, no easy task given committee membership included members of the Southern NSW Local Health District, GPs, community members and members of Save Our Hospital Inc (SOHI).
But navigating through the choppy waters of local health services, it seems that Mr Stahl has applied a firm grip on the tiller ensuring robust, but respectful discussion and a voice for all sides.
The result is a list of about 27 matters which require discussion by the committee and of that list Mr Stahl believes “more than 20 recommendations for future health services at Pambula are likely to be made to the Local Health District Board before Christmas". These are on issues where Mr Stahl can see consensus is likely to be reached.
"My take on committee members is they want to ensure that Pambula Hospital and Health Service, combined with the new regional comprehensive hospital when it opens in 2016, provides the communities of the far south coast a better health service than people are currently experiencing," said Mr Stahl.
Notwithstanding the progress that has been made between the groups represented, there remain some big challenges around complex issues, for the committee to tackle in upcoming meetings.
These include the theatre, acute care, transitional care, emergency department and further down the track, the possibility of integrated care between public and private providers co-located at Pambula Hospital and Pambula Community Health.
Community members on the committee are arguing the advantages of ensuring all but the most serious emergency presentations are treated at Pambula Hospital and that some inpatient beds remain. In addition they are keen to build consulting rooms at Pambula Hospital for visiting medical specialists and have a fully equipped room for supervised self renal dialysis. Committee members are also discussing the expansion of medical clinics at Pambula Hospital for those discharged from hospital but who need regular access to such a clinic.
Mr Stahl said: “The need for expanding community health, mental health, therapy and ‘Hospital In The Home’ services are in the mix of possible recommendations. Future services for our ageing population are also being considered.”
In regards to the theatre, proposals for maintaining a procedure room at Pambula Hospital or even leasing the small theatre to a medical consortium are being analysed, Mr Stahl added.
Committee member and president of SOHI, Sharon Tapscott, called the committee process constructive and added she was pleased to see the committee had taken a lead in drawing attention to the need for an integrated southern transport strategy to both Pambula and the new regional hospital post its opening in 2016. "Although both hospitals are very much wanted it'll be no good if community members without cars cannot easily access them," Mrs Tapscott said.
Chairperson of the Local Health District (LHD) board Jenny Symons, also a member of the committee said that the consensus vision for the health and hospital precinct at Pambula was as a model for local community hospital and health services, working in a complementary way with a nearby large regional hospital to provide state of the art health services in a rural setting.
Further information about the meetings can be found under the Community Engagement tab at www.snswlhd.health.nsw.gov.au