Hospital crisis: Doctors urge local action

BIG employers in Albury-Wodonga are being urged to lobby the state and federal governments for adequate money for the crisis-hit public hospital system.

Border Medical Association chairwoman Tracey Merriman yesterday said it was plain Albury Wodonga Health was “behind the eight-ball” when compared with Victorian hospitals.

“Big employers should tell governments their staff and their families deserve a good standard of healthcare here,” Dr Merriman said.

“If people waiting for surgery can’t go back to work because they are kept waiting, that has an impact on our economy.”

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Dr Merriman’s comments follow revelations Albury Wodonga Health’s elective surgery waiting list for public patients will hit 4000 this week and could rise by 300 a month.

The service is closing beds and inviting 50 redundancies from its 1200 staff to tackle a $3.9 million funding cut in its $180 million budget over the next five months.

Dr Merriman said the medical association, with about 100 members, was working with Albury Wod­onga Health to handle the situation and achieve efficencies in the system.

But the Border continued to suffer because it wasn’t allowed to catch up on historical underfunding of the cities’ pre-merger hospital services.

Vascular surgeon John Rophael last week said he was withdrawing from practice in Albury because Albury Wodonga Health had ceased funding his work for public patients.

Mr Rophael, who also operates in Melbourne, said he could not maintain a practice in Albury with only private patients.

Dr Merriman feared more surgeons could also go elsewhere if difficulties securing time in the hospitals were not resolved.

The Border Medical Association strongly supports the single cross-border hospital service, with acute cases handled in Albury, while also maintaining Wodonga hospital.

Albury Base hsopital.

“The community must be more vocal in getting more money for the service,” she said.

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