Doctor calls for action on hospital theatre woes
A GLADSTONE doctor has grave concerns about the management and physical state of Gladstone Hospital and wants immediate action.
Boyne Island general practitioner Dr Gaston Boulanger has held a number of positions in different medical groups across the region.
Dr Boulanger said his concerns had been building for nearly a decade but he was particularly troubled after reading a 2017 draft report titled Rural Anaesthetic Services in Queensland District Hospitals.
Dr Boulanger said the report rated Gladstone Hospital hardware as "very poor".
He said the author - who did not wish to be named - wrote a similar report in 2007 and claimed they were "startled" that nothing had changed.
Dr Boulanger said the operating theatres at Gladstone Hospital were too small and that four theatres were needed instead of the current two.
"An X-ray machine does not fit in the room and the anaesthetists need to be careful or they will hit their head on ceiling-mounted equipment. This makes most standard orthopedic surgery impossible," Dr Boulanger said.
Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service executive director of Gladstone-Banana, Sandy Munro, said hardware improvements had been made at the hospital.
"There are two operating theatres at Gladstone Hospital which were extensively refurbished in 2015," Ms Munro said.
"Gladstone also has a procedure room for scopes and a room used for minor operations.
"The current theatres are suitable for the current capacity, and there is room for a mobile X-ray machine."
Dr Boulanger said the draft report highlighted the need for Gladstone Hospital to "become a basic Level 4 facility as soon as possible".
Gladstone currently has a mixture of Level 2, 3, 4 and 5 services according to the June 2017 CQHHS self-assessment summary sheet.
"Whilst Gladstone does also offer some level 4 and 5 services, Queensland's industrial engine room needs a fully functioning Level 4 hospital so we can develop as a city," Dr Boulanger said.
"Recruitment and retention of the workforce would also benefit from a fair dinkum hospital service that will attract and keep people in the region, especially retirees."
Ms Munro said Gladstone Hospital continues to grow and improve and "now provides a wider range of specialist services than ever before".
"We're committed to keep improving and expanding," she said.
"The Level 4 that Dr Boulanger is referring to is defined through the Clinical Services Capability Framework.
"This outlines the minimum support services, staffing, safety standards and other requirements to ensure safe and appropriately supported clinical services. This framework is a series of modules, rather than a whole hospital.
"Gladstone offers Level 4 services in cardiac rehabilitation, medication, medical imaging and pathology, and Level 5 services in mental health outpatients.
"This framework is an overall health service planning tool. Its key purpose is to increase the services provided locally where it is safe to do so."
Dr Boulanger stressed that his issues concern the CQHHS management and the infrastructure, not medical staff.
"The doctors and nursing staff have done a wonderful job and the emergency department is excellent. I have an enormous faith in the health practitioners," he said.
"But this is not about the doctors and not about the medical care ... it's about providing poor and non-continuous management by CQHHS which is based in Rockhampton.
"Gladstone Hospital has had eight different directors of medical services in five years. This reflects the quality of management and is very concerning.
"I don't think you can manage a hospital with eight different directors in five years."
CQHHS disputed that figure, saying "two permanent appointments (were) made and seven short-term appointments in the past five years".
Dr Boulanger said it was time Gladstone escaped the clutches of Rockhampton.
"The CQHHS management state that they want to treat patients closer to home. Closer to home means in Gladstone and not Rockhampton. A Level 4 hospital is the bare minimum that Gladstone needs urgently."
Dr Boulanger called on the Queensland Government to provide a fully functioning Level 4 hospital in Gladstone by 2022 with independent governance and independent budget.