Kevin Hegarty.
Kevin Hegarty.

Coast anger over Noosa health cuts

QUEENSLAND Health is facing a community backlash over plans to slash public health services.

The Noosa Hospital's community board says if forced it will take the fight to retain services to the streets.

It has repeatedly requested Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service boss Prof Paul Thomas explain the decision.

Prof Thomas has yet to do so.

Coast Health Service CEO Kevin Hegarty said yesterday that its 2013-14 service agreement with Ramsay Health had maintained funding for public patients at Noosa Hospital's emergency medical centre and to admit from there those in need of further care.

However, a range of other services have been slashed with funding shifting to the Ramsay-operated Sunshine Coast University Private Hospital at Kawana and to the Nambour public.

The Noosa Hospital community board is furious at the refusal of Prof Thomas to meet with it despite numerous requests and invitations.

Board deputy chairman Rusty Fraser said the hospital covered a huge area.

Concern surrounded more than the logistics of day surgery and other patients getting to either Kawana or Nambour for treatment.

"Doctors will now be looking at their options and considering whether Noosa Hospital remains a viable place for them to practise,'' Mr Fraser said.

Board member June Colley said she knew of two cases already, where the funding decisions had adversely affected patients.

In one case an uninsured public patient would be left with a debt that would take four to five years to pay off after deciding to go private rather than deal with the logistics of travelling out of Noosa for treatment. In another case a public patient with only a bike for transport had been forced to beg friends for assistance to get him to and from day surgery.

Ms Colley, a former Noosa councillor, said the decision to cut services was the most stupid she had seen.

Mr Hegarty said yesterday that the annual decision about the range and volume of services purchased from Noosa Hospital was made with consideration of the health needs of the community and the changing availability of services.

He said the increase from 1200 to 5000 in endoscopic procedures performed on public patients on the Coast with the opening of procedural suites at Nambour hospital in April last year, coupled with plans to increase that to 6000 from December through the Sunshine Coast University Private Hospital, had lessened the need to provide them at Noosa.

As a consequence, the number of public patients able to access an endoscopic procedure at Noosa will be halved.

Cardiologist Dr Tony Neaverson who ran a cardiac rehabilitation clinic through Noosa Hospital, has seen his funding cut from $80,000 to $40,000 and then dropped in the past two years.

He said this week that $3million had been pulled from the budget for public patients at Noosa. Orthopaedic services for public patients have also been axed.

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