LEETON'S hospital continues to be plagued by issues of alleged bullying and a lack of services, including the availability of a full-time doctor, which is just the tip of the iceberg according to Member for Murray Helen Dalton.
Long before being elected, Mrs Dalton has been fighting for the hospital to have more staff, for the return of birthing services, having a doctor at the facility at all times and more mental health treatment options at this location.
She says in that time, little to nothing has changed. In more recent times Leeton shire residents have taken to social media to share their stories of the hospital, with many detailing how even their simplest of needs were not met.
Mrs Dalton said nursing staff were over-worked and conditions at the hospital were poor, including accusations of bullying.
Residents are having to travel far and wide to seek emergency attention.
"I know there have been avoidable deaths at this hospital and it's a wonder there hasn't been more ... it's not good enough and the government and Murrumbidgee Local Health District needs to do more to fix all of these issues," Mrs Dalton said.
"Even the building itself looks run down.
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"A town of Leeton's size and growing population needs a better functioning hospital and doctor that is there all of the time. It's a basic human right."
With residents sharing their tales on social media, Mrs Dalton said this was no longer good enough. She said if the community wants real change, they needed to band together and make their voices heard.
"We need to be out here as a united group protesting loudly about this," she said.
MLHD senior staff members were in town this week to meet with Leeton Shire Council to discuss these very issues.
Council itself has put forward a highly-detailed document to the inquiry into rural health outlining all of the shortcomings here in Leeton.
No patients are turned away from emergency departments, which are staffed 24 hours a day by highly-trained registered nurses with qualifications in emergency care who can triage and assess patients.- MLHD chief executive Jill Ludford
Mayor Paul Maytom said it was a time for action as he has had meeting-after-meeting on the issues, but nothing appears to have changed.
Councillor Maytom said he too had heard stories of avoidable deaths and worried there would be more if something doesn't change and change now.
When questioned by The Irrigator about these concerns, MLHD chief executive Jill Ludford said the MLHD had been actively recruiting for a career medical officer and nurse practitioners for the Leeton hospital emergency department since 2019.
"Attracting medical professionals to work in rural and regional areas continues to be a challenge nationwide," Ms Ludford said.
"MLHD is now developing different options to attract medical officers for emergency departments, while supporting the local doctors to admit patients for local care.
"No patients are turned away from emergency departments, which are staffed 24 hours a day by highly-trained registered nurses with qualifications in emergency care who can triage and assess patients.
"Nurse practitioners are also employed to care for non-urgent patients."
This statement from Ms Ludford does appear to contradict what some in the community have outlined as their experience, saying there have been times they have been sent home from the ED without what they say was proper care.
General practitioners who live in Leeton and work in practices in the town currently have an on-call roster for the hospital ED.
Seven doctors are currently on this roster.
Ms Ludford also said there were no plans to build a specialist acute mental health unit at the Leeton hospital.
When addressing claims of bullying she said the organisation had a zero tolerance approach.
"Any allegations are taken very seriously and investigated fully," Ms Ludford said.
Ms Ludford and senior staff are available to meet with community representatives to hear their concerns and can be contacted by email at MLHD-Feedback@health.nsw.gov.au.
Mrs Dalton said her office could also be contacted by community members who were wanting to take a stand and fight for a better future for the hospital.
"Every day I am receiving at least one phone call, letter or email from someone in Leeton telling me about the issues they have experienced at the hospital here," she said.
"It's not good enough and we simply can't stand for it.
"This government and the MLHD need to do better for the people of Leeton."
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