Local member wants paediatrics reinstated now

By Olivia Duffey

Paediatric services must be reinstated at Deniliquin Hospital immediately.

That is the demand NSW Member for Murray Helen Dalton is making following last week’s hasty closure of the NSW and Victorian border.

Mrs Dalton said the closure means families are now being forced to travel long distances for basic health treatment.

It was revealed last year that Deniliquin Hospital was no longer allowed to undertake any procedures requiring an anaesthetic on a child under the age of 15.

Lack of access to specialist equipment is among the reasons.

Mrs Dalton said it’s just one example highlighting that investment in regional health is not adequate.

As a result, she said NSW regional communities rely too heavily on the Victorian health system and are now in a real quandary.

Mrs Dalton said ‘‘it’s not good enough’’ that a facility like Deniliquin Hospital, which services such a large geographical area, should be lacking such an important service.

‘‘It is an outrage,’’ Mrs Dalton said.

‘‘Now that the border is closed and we can’t access these services, people are being forced to get a permit to go over the border, go to Griffith or even Swan Hill, and that shouldn’t have to happen.

‘‘If you have a number of children, it makes it very difficult to travel long distances and even go to another state to be treated.

‘‘These services need to be here, so whatever is required to upgrade the hospital must be done because children should be able to be treated and stay in hospital.

‘‘We are not going to do brain surgery at Deni Hospital, but we should be able to have a child stay overnight, have stitches, the basic things that are required.’’

Mrs Dalton said residents in regional towns are ‘‘always considered to be third class citizens’’ by the state government.

‘‘They wouldn’t tolerate the same situation in Sydney,’’ she said.

‘‘The New South Wales Government seems to have little knowledge of the communities in the Murray electorate, particularly along the river and where Deniliquin is.

‘‘We have been ignored, downgraded and the government is relying on the Victorian system to provide healthcare for us. To me that is disgraceful.

‘‘We pay our taxes, so we expect to have some level of service.

‘‘There have been systematic downgrades of all the hospitals around my electorate, which is unfair for all residents and not good enough.’’ 

Mrs Dalton has also slammed the state government for not consulting regional and border towns before making a ‘‘hasty decision to close the border’’. 

‘‘Sydney is too far away, they have no idea what impact this closure has already had on the good people of border communities,’’ she said.

‘‘And hastily shutting the border before a permit scheme was in place has caused immense distress for so many people in regional New South Wales. 

‘‘I am still waiting for that telephone call Gladys told me she was going to make to MPs that were impacted. I still haven’t heard from her.’’

Concerns have also been raised about access to oncology and maternity services for local cancer patients who would normally travel to Melbourne, or possibly Albury-Wodonga for specialist services.

The problem, as Mrs Dalton said, is the consistent downgrading of hospitals, which then makes it difficult to attract staff with the specialist skills required to offer the services.

MLHD responded saying they are working with local GPs and service providers ‘‘to ensure residents in the Edward River Council area have access to medical services while the border restrictions are in place’’. 

‘‘Deniliquin Hospital continues to welcome all children requiring emergency care to the Emergency Department for treatment,’’ MLHD director of clinical operations Cherie Puckett said. 

‘‘If a child is required to be admitted to hospital for ongoing treatment the option of transfer to the paediatric and adolescent ward at Griffith or Wagga Base Hospital is still available. 

‘‘Murrumbidgee Local Health District will work with health professionals in Deniliquin to ensure they have the information and contacts required to make referrals to specialist services in NSW. 

‘‘MLHD is also exploring additional community transport support with Transport NSW.’’

MLHD confirmed border community residents needing to access medical services across the border are eligible for a permit through Service NSW.

In most cases patients re-entering NSW from Victoria will be required to self-isolate for 14 days.