A two-hour meeting on Tuesday morning between Sharon Tapscott, president of Save our Hospital Inc (SOHI), Dr Frank Simonson and Jenny Symons, acting chair of the Southern NSW Local Health District Board, has Mrs Tapscott optimistic about Pambula Hospital’s future.
The meeting follows an ironclad guarantee given by NSW Minister for Health Jillian Skinner on June 28 that Pambula Hospital would not close once the new South East Regional Hospital is built at Bega.
At the June 28 meeting Ms Skinner also announced the formation of a Pambula Hospital Advisory Committee (PHAC).
While an official announcement is pending about membership of the PHAC, SOHI members have been led to believe it will include Sharon Tapscott (community representative), Geoff Dove (legal expertise), Dr Frank Simonson (medical expert), Ken Carmody (financial expert) and Russell Fitzpatrick (health board member).
“Andrew Constance (Member for Bega) phoned me on Friday and asked if we would be involved in the new PHAC. I said ‘yes’ so long as it wasn’t a toothless tiger,” Mrs Tapscott said on Tuesday.
“We (SOHI) had a number of concerns. We were concerned that the minister said there would be no duplication of services across the new Bega hospital and Pambula hospital. Pambula has lost services in the last four years and we plan to reintroduce some, including 24/7 emergency services. That’s a priority.”
“We were concerned about the terms of reference for the local advisory committee, whether it would be involved in direct local management of the Pambula Hospital, or that its recommendations would be referred to the Queanbeyan health bureaucrats.
“What authority and accountability will it have? All of these are real concerns,” Mrs Tapscott said.
However Mrs Tapscott’s concerns were calmed following her meeting with Ms Symons that morning.
“We had a very constructive talk.
“The purpose of the meeting was to try and work out how we would be involved in the health structure. Jenny Symons made it very clear we would have a direct line to the NSW Health Minister as and when we needed it.
“That reassures us. As Dr Frank Simonson has pointed out, if he had had that access a while back the health board would not have been misinformed about the number of local health neonatal doctors. We have six, not the one that was reported,” she said.
“We’ve agreed to get it (PHAC) up and running on an interim, six-monthly basis, provided the terms of reference are broad enough for us to get it up and running.
“Jenny put it to us that, if there is anything in the terms of reference that doesn’t quite suit, we can put in an appendix to the terms of reference to address that.
“I felt comfortable following the meeting. We didn’t get into specifics, and clearly there will be battles over the specifics.”
Mrs Tapscott says one clear outcome emerging from the talks to date that signals a change of heart from the health bureaucracy is that there is no one size fit all approach.
“We want to devolve decision making right down to the hospital being supplied by locals. It’s my understanding that decision-making will come with being cost-neutral, achieving a better outcome and being safe.
“We reckon we can save money through getting local suppliers for the kitchen, local suppliers for the laundry, trying to get some CMOs instead of locums, and running it as a training hospital for young doctors.
“They’re aspirational goals but they’re something for us to work towards.
My argument all along has been about achieving a better standard of care for local people who don’t have to be taken out of familiar surroundings.
“We don’t want it to be called an advisory committee. We want it to be called a management committee.”