Intense talks suggest surgery crisis averted

WORK is under way to secure the future of surgical services at Shoalhaven Hospital.The hospital’s head of surgery, Martin Jones, said health officials had started “intense negotiations” with Australian Medical Association representatives to secure contracts for the hospital’s two general surgeons.“It is looking like it is going to work out,” Professor Jones said.However he was concerned that the Health Minister Jillian Skinner, South Coast MP Shelley Hancock, Kiama MP Gareth Ward and Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District chairman Dennis King had not contacted him despite discussing his concerns during a meeting on Tuesday night.In fact, Professor Jones said he had not heard from key people in the health district, including Professor King and chief executive officer Sue Browbank, all year.Mrs Hancock described the meeting as “extremely productive”.“The issues raised by Dr Jones were discussed and I expressed my extreme concern regarding these matters directly to the minister,” Mrs Hancock said.“I am confident that as a result of the meeting, the concerns raised by Dr Jones will be resolved by the end of the month.”Professor Jones said Mrs Skinner had provided a good example of the rest of the state’s health professionals, “in that I’ve never seen someone wash their hands so much”.Earlier in the week Mrs Skinner distanced herself from the dispute that threatened to bring a halt to all scheduled and emergency surgery at the hospital after June 30, when the contracts of surgeons Professor Jones and Mark Hehir expired.“I understand that the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District is working with its employees in relation to contract issues at Shoalhaven Hospital,” Mrs Skinner said.While the contractual dispute appeared set for resolution before the June 30 deadline, Professor Jones said there was still work to be done to convince the state government of Shoalhaven Hospital’s importance.That particularly related to recruiting more surgeons for the hospital, which lay at the centre of a demand for better conditions in the contract.Professor Jones said without the added conditions, which were already available at similar hospitals in NSW, Shoalhaven would find it next to impossible to attract new surgeons to replace staff who retired or resigned.Three surgeons left the hospital late last year, with one retiring, another moving to northern NSW due to complicated family needs, and a third deciding he could no longer work under the public health system and deciding to work only in the private hospital.Since then the two remaining surgeons have been working at a hectic pace, and handling unprecedented patient loads.While a replacement surgeon was interviewed in November, he had yet to be included in rosters as his contract was finalised only last week.This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.