Vital Griffith and Temora health services are allegedly being targeted for cuts to compensate for a $20 million black hole at Wagga hospital.
Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD) refused to either confirm or deny a series of explosive allegations on up to $20 million of taxpayers money wasted at Wagga Rural Referral Hospital, as a result of expensive unused equipment and theatres.
The Area News has information from several sources indicating angiography theatres and equipment – allegedly costing $10 million – remain unused at Wagga Rural Referral Hospital, 19 months after purchase.
Wagga hospital director Helen Cooper conceded the equipment is lying unused.
“While this service is being set up, the existing Angiography services will continued unchanged [sic]. The equipment has had regular required checks until its planned commissioning this year.”
The last sentence is contradicted by a previous media release by MLHD, which stated, “the Angio suite will be operational in mid-2016”.
Angiography equipment is used to x-ray blood vessels to detect blockages and other problems.
It is also alleged: warranty for the equipment has expired, without anyone knowing if the equipment actually works; staff have been employed to work in the dormant facilities; and patients are being referred to the [private] Calvary hospital for treatment, even though the facilities exist at Wagga hospital.
The total amount of money spent may be as high as $20 million, with the debacle reminiscent of the Yes Minister episode about the hospital with no patients.
Save Griffith Base Hospital President Jenna Woodland said, “it’s telling the MLHD won’t even answer a direct question about whether rural health services are being cut to plug this black hole. What are they hiding?”
“It’s outrageous we are losing vital hospital services in Griffith while so much money is allegedly being wasted in Wagga”.
Wagga councillor Dan Hayes said, “this is not the first time we've heard of expensive equipment not being used".
Last year, The Daily Advertiser reported on allegations a multi-million dollar MRI machine was also lying dormant.
“The level of transparency around Wagga hospital has been very poor. This information needs to be made public," Mr Hayes said.
Griffith Base Hospital has recently faced downgrades to radiology, sterilisation and pathology services.
Two weeks ago, doctors at Temora hospital were told their obstetric theatre would be shut down.
All decisions were made by health bureaucrats who did not tell government or local doctors.
After a public outcry, the Griffith pathology and Temora decisions were reversed.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard recently rejected calls from MLHD managers to be sacked.
The Area News Questions to MLHD
Does the new Wagga Hospital have world class angiography theatres and equipment built at a cost of $ 10 million?
Are they lying unused (for the purpose they were built) for the last 19 months?
Is the equipment out of company warranty?
Is annual service and maintenance fee being paid after company warranty expired, even when machines have never been used. How much is this fee?
How do you know that the machines work correctly, if they have not been used at all?
Why have the machines not been used for the past 19 months?
How many patients were sent to a private facility for tests and procedures which could be done using own facilities since the new hospital opened?
How much was the bill in the last 19 months for sending these patients across to private?
Is this why small rural facilities are being downgraded and shut, to cover this wastage?
How many staff have been recruited for these facilities which lie unused? What have they been doing? How do they fill their day?
When were these staff recruited?
What is the annual salary of these staff?
MLHD full response:
Wagga Wagga Rural Referral Hospital is a campus undergoing continual change as part of its redevelopment, with state-of-the-art facilities built and implemented for the future.
As part of this future-planning, Wagga Wagga Rural Referral Hospital has commenced a staged introduction of interventionist radiology services, including new Angiography services.
Staff have already commenced training for the new service, under the care of experienced clinicians who are also overseeing the service implementation.
While this service is being set up, the existing Angiography services will continued unchanged. The equipment has had regular required checks until its planned commissioning this year