MAKING better use of Queanbeyan’s surplus theatre capacity will be a key aim of Southern NSW Local Health’s upcoming health services plan for Queanbeyan Hospital.
In the wake of recent contract negotiations with senior specialists at the hospital, Southern NSW Local Health has committed to completing a total review of Queanbeyan’s future services.
As part of its new pay agreement with senior specialists and the Rural Doctors Association, Queanbeyan Hospital is set to transition away from its status as a rural facility over the next three years.
Part of that will ideally see Queanbeyan offer a larger range of services with greater staffing levels in line with increased surgical output.
Queanbeyan has three operating theatres but of those, only one is in regular, full-time use. It is understood the third of the theatres has gone largely unused since the hospital was redeveloped in 2008.
“The area everyone points to, and quite rightly, is theatre capacity,” Dr Alexander said of the hospital’s future ambitions.
“[Queanbeyan] has been designed as a reasonable turnover surgical centre and it’s fair to say it’s under occupied compared to its capacity.
“So that would certainly be part of the planning environment and that’s the basis of our work with the ACT. Essentially, there are too many people on waiting lists in Canberra and we have spare capacity so why don’t we share it around a bit.”
Utilizing the excess operating capacity at Queanbeyan in a bid to reduce waiting lists across the border is not a new idea.
But while Queanbeyan has taken on a greater role in providing surgical services in recent years, Dr Alexander said there was room to further increase cross-border cooperation.
As well as working more closely with the ACT, Queanbeyan is also set to see a surge of demand locally over the next few years as both the Googong and Tralee developments come online.
Dr Alexander said work on the health services plan would get underway within the next few months and would be complete before the end of the year.
Chair of Queanbeyan Hospital Medical Council Dr Anthony Stevenson, meanwhile, said he welcomed the offer for the hospital’s medical staff to be heavily involved in the planning process.
“Strategically this is a very important time for this community in terms of the health services that are going to be delivered,” he said. “And the medical staff, many of whom live and work in the town, they have insights and an important role to play in that regard.
“In terms of future planning, [Queanbeyan] has traditionally been run on a rural GP basis but there’s an opportunity now in terms of expanding the specialist service here at this hospital.”