It Might Be The Only Way To Save It!

A medico speaks.

Times are getting desperate at the (now called) Manning Rural Referral Hospital. The title signifies its downgrading. 

In a frustrated and wide ranging talk, a medical specialist from Manning Hospital came to us to share his frank frustrations at the state of Manning Hospital and its fragile future. Needless to say he wishes to remain anonymous to protect his job.

Management tries hard but like a lot of rural hospitals if you want to get ahead you have to know the right people in the right places. If you’ve done all your time in one place it’s hard to progress upwards and you don’t have the experience either. Many staff stay as “acting” in the role. When you have to compete in a bigger pond, you learn to be strong and not be intimidated. You learn to fight for what you want a bit more.

It’s not enough for Management to shrug and say well we tried. We’re going backwards.  Frankly if they shut the Manning Hospital that might get such a reaction there’d be the political will to sort it out. Then a decision would have to be made, though frankly we need new political representatives. 

The lack of specialists at the hospital is a major problem.  So too is the lack of beds, trainees, and support staff. We don’t have the critical number of specialists. 

The emergency department is run generally by CMOs -Career Medical Officers- who may be senior but the College of Emergency Medicine does not consider them to be suitable for supervising trainees. 

But you can’t close down an emergency department of this size without public revolt, so they get people in with very little emergency experience. So we have a terrible reputation as an emergency department even though we pay a lot.

This lack of specialists again gives John Hunter Health a reason to say we don’t meet the standards of  emergency medicine training so we can’t have trainees. With no trainees it makes it hard to get senior staff.  Some come and are keen initially but then they start hitting road blocks at every level so move on, which means resources don’t come to us as we don’t have the qualified staff.  The recruitment rate is low, the retention rate even worse. 

Without trainees and no juniors to support them, senior doctors don’t stay for long. At least half a dozen who recently came from the UK, Ireland, Germany, stayed for some time, then once they’ve made contact with other hospitals they move on.  

Working here is very hard as there’s no junior staff and you hardly get a toilet break. If you’re a specialist you need a supportive team with you as there’s too many patients for just two eyes. The specialist would see the sickest patients then provide guidance to the others as we have only interns and very junior doctors. 

Is it any wonder they soon look around at the private system where they can be paid five times as much as working at the Manning as a staff specialist  on a fixed salary which is capped at 40 hours a week. Even if you work 60 hours you aren’t paid for that.  Sometimes you might get some time off in lieu but that’s almost impossible because of the work load.

Our anaesthetist department is struggling. When everyone is a visiting consultant the majority of the work depends on locums which means we’re scrabbling to find one on a day to day basis which can be thousands of dollars for several days. But for the person responsible for finding staff on a Friday afternoon, and the only available anaesthetist they can find is in WA, what the heck, bring him in we need him.

So when HNEH see us doing crazy things like flying in a locum from WA they probably think, the Manning Hospital has no chance to survive.

ICU Beds

All we are funded for are two ICU beds and two High Dependency beds compared to Port Macquarie Hospital which has 10-12 beds in intensive care, Coffs Harbour has 10 beds,  and I think even Tamworth has 12 beds now. Dubbo is building an ICU unit with 12 beds.

That means no surge capacity (when there’s an increase in demand)  when there’s only resources for two beds allotted to us.  

We have the physical space but it’s not being used, as there’s no budget, no facilities or resources. So it’s always a nightmare for middle management to try and find and chase staff every day!

Car Park Obsolete

When they did get us some money they built a car park which is already obsolete. There’s little chance you can find a parking place in daylight within 200 metres of the hospital. They closed the top floor for all the hospital fleet cars, for visiting staff, community services and so on. Why do we need so many fleet cars? We expected at least there’d be more car park spots. It hasn’t delivered. 80 percent of the nurses park in Aldi up the road. 

When a position was lost the hospital has not chased up a replacement. Once a service is lost and you don’t recruit, forget it.  We have no Ear/Nose/throat person and waiting lists for any ENT procedure is super long. If you need an ENT treatment and are told its not available here then you don’t march outside the hospital and protest. You find somewhere you can go and get it done. 

But as an administrator you should use this as a leverage to show we need someone on a permanent basis, rather than let it slide and look at it as a budgetry saving.  We had a pathologist retire and I don’t think there’s any intent to recruit another one. 

Need To Advertise

There should be some yardstick to show why we need more resources. If we are constantly over budget there has to be a reason.  We are not privy to what sort of a fight management and admin puts up for us to truly reflect our needs to HNEH.  

Yet when the whole state recruits for junior medical staff we never advertise in a timely fashion. Do we expect someone to just turn up in Taree looking  for a job? 

Ideally we want people who come here to work and stay here and have some quality family life.

Management’s role is to ask for more resources! Squeaky door and all that.

Going Downhill

For now we just stagger along.   Forster people were keen on Bromhead’s promise to build a hospital there because they feel the Manning Hospital is going downhill. 

In Forster there seems a higher proportion of patients who drive to Sydney or Newcastle for elective procedures and also a lot of GPs in Forster have stopped referring patients to the Manning. 

And when it comes to cardiac patients the most we can do in Taree is an echo cardiogram, but if you think the patient might have a blocked artery why would they want wait to do an Echo in Taree  then wait to be transferred  to Newcastle or Port Macquarie.  Patients get annoyed too they think, why am I being messed around like this when I could have a heart attack. 

OK we don’t do brain surgery or complicated heart surgery in Taree, but we should at least try to offer the same services which are offered in similar size regional hospitals. 

Making our bottom line look good to Newcastle has diminished the role of the Manning hospital in our community.

It’s all very well to say use it or lose it. We need everyone to get out on the streets and demand more.” 

(The point made by the passionate and caring medico above, is that medicine is truly a calling. Doctors who spend years training and honing skills and knowledge, want to practice. Yes, they want a life too, but being able to work in a field of caring, curing, and saving lives is not “just a job.” And if they don’t have the means, the facilities or the support to do their job, they’ll move to a hospital where they can.

We don’t want to lose out hospital. We need to show our support and demand more for the Manning Hospital.

John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle has been given 780 million dollars for a new “extension.”  They have a very pro active and demanding CEO.  We need to demand that the Manning and surrounds also deserve more. Our lives depend on it.  ed.)

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  1. Karin Holst says:

    I’m in full agreement with what was written about the Manning Referral Hospital. But how can we make a noise so it can be heard. Maybe what you said about closing the Manning Referral Hospital down will cause an outcry or would it go the other way.
    I do know we need different politicians in this area.
    If anyone has any ideas about making our voice heard, I’d be interested in your views.

  2. Bernhard Racz says:

    Typical disgrace. Coffs Harbour Hospital also has no cardiac surgery other than stents – if you need a bypass after (or to avoid) a heart attack, you have to be flown hundreds of kms to another hospital. In Sydney you can almost have a bypass near any Maccas!…. they have them at numerous private and public hospitals there.
    Manning was a major hospital in the days of the old Pacific HighwaY and all the road traumas.
    These days the idea is to get the population to move to the regional centers like states, Kempsey, COffs Harbour, but it’s a joke if the health care services are deliberately being castrated by incompetent government officers.
    Common sense and insight would indicate that health services need to be expanded and supported to accommodate the future population migration and increases.

  3. Celia Mathews says:

    From what my and others experience had been, I agree whole heartedly. Perhaps a petition to Mr Bromhead or other powers that be?? All other medical facilities, knowing this problem, should also be a part of this discussion.

  4. Don Howard says:

    Time for all who live in the Manning to understand that what is happening has been happening for a lot of years.. Not only is the Hospital slowly closing down, but Taree too is slowly closing down.. First the industry in the area either went away or just closed. That meant less jobs.. That in turn signaled people in the service area, including health to not be there as well.. Look around.. empty shops , empty factories..This area is showing the state government that Taree and surrounds will close, when finally the older go-get people finally die. The State Government representative ( Bromhead) delivers a few dollars for a building, But it is empty with out services.. Taree is slowly turning into a Rust Belt town..

    • Steve says:


      Please explain why you say industry has closed or went away. Southcott engineering has expanded to 2 premises. Jamestrong is here and has been under one name or another for eons. Abbatoirs. Steber. Speed flow.

      • Don Howard says:

        Steve, how about nameing the ones that have closed ..Just to many to name ?..So when is the Forster hospital going to be completed? You have been quoted as an election promise ” As being in this term” or are you as shown by your banners ” Just making idle promises..? Look around at the empty factories and shops.. or are you blind..? No don’t answer that one.

  5. Cam Jennings says:

    One can only be amazed by the lack of performance by our elected leaders and in the next election let’s make a change happen and Make Myall marginal.

  6. Alan Tickle says:

    When ever issues are raised by the MGLCAG (action group) to state politicians including the minister, the response is a letter from HNELHD. That it not representation or reviewing policy,it is a politician becoming a burocrat and responding to a letter not the issues.
    The talk pre election of stage 2 funding and then the ludicrous duplication of scarce resources by even contemplating a second hospital in close proximity, was ridiculous given stage 1 of the redevelopment is made up of 1a to 1d. So far only half of stage 1 has been funded

    Bromhead realises the error now and communicates as planning stage 2 and completing stage 1 with the money allocated pre election that won’t be seen until 2022.

    There was no costing completed to arrive at the numbers so there is doubt if project costs for stage 1 will come close.
    The fundamental issues go beyond the built infrastructure, it’s the human resource issues that are the challenge.

    Those issues are not contained to Taree but we are starting from a position of weakness .

    In recent meeting with Federal Member Dr David Gillespie, the action group called for Federal intervention to review training incentives in regional areas with a “grow your own” concept. It was pointed out that both state and federal joint initiatives are needed.

    Unfortunately this is all too big a challenge for some of the intellectually deficient clowns that get re- elected.
    Last state election gave voters a chance to shoe their patience had run out but instead the locals returned a ribbon cutter of car parks and toilets with an increased majority.

    The die hard nationals would vote for Pinochio if he was the candidate.

    Perhaps this shows that the alternative side of politics that can’t even contemplate private public arrangements has its own issues which the voters can’t support either.

    The staff at Manning Hospital are hard working and dedicated. They are going beyond time and again and are the glue that keeps the together.

    To them this community is eternally grateful.
    Alan Tickle
    president of Health Action Group.

  7. Victoria Milton-white says:

    I agree with every Word in the statement above I have for the last 3 1/2 years then going to Port Macquarie hospital my specialist is in Port Macquarie also my GPs in Port Macquarie I live in Harrington and the services in our area absolutely horrific they closing everything down and there is never enough room in the hospital they always send your home even though you are well enough to go home the emergency section is always full to capacity as well the beds on the wards something has to be done now I think because we are on the fringe area of the Jahn John Hunter health district New England have a much better allocation of funds going to their hospitals Port Macquarie has a lot more funds going to the hospital with all the equipment that they need a friend of mine had to have an MRI and was told to come back in three weeks because Tyereese had broken down all the equipment is old and dated and so is the hospital itself we need a hospital in Taree not in foster and the only reason I believe they’re pushing for one in foster now is because our local Council are all going tat all going to foster everything gets done in foster as everything gets done in Port Macquarie Taree is going to be a ghost town with no health care for the elderly all the young if I get picked up in Harrington by ambulance where will it take me Foster or Port Macquarie that is a lot more for the public health system do you have to deal with we need a hospital that functions as well as Port Macquarie base hospital and we need it now the nurses are understaffed and have the cheapest of all equipment compare to what they have in Port Macquarie It’s almost as if Tara is a third world country hospital and they should not be happening in Australia the politicians need to stand up and look up at the disgusting health mess they have put our country in

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