Staffing crisis concern with $102 million upgrade promise for Scone’s Scott Memorial Hospital

  • Published March 9, 2023

The Daily Telegraph, 8 March 203

While it’s welcome news Scone could receive a multimillion dollar redevelopment of its hospital, there’s grave concern the infrastructure promise won’t address the staffing crisis that is being critically felt across the state.

If elected, a Coalition Government has promised to invest $102.3 million to redevelop the Scott Memorial Hospital in the small Upper Hunter town to deliver a state-of-the-art hospital building, as well as a refurbishment of the health worker accommodation.

But the fear is that an upgrade of this magnitude may not include the necessary staffing attention.

The announcement comes as the brand new recently opened $470 million Maitland Hospital, in the neighbouring electorate, is plagued with staffing shortages and skyrocketing wait times.

“Unfortunately bricks and mortar don’t care for patients,” Health Services Union (HSU) NSW Secretary Gerard Hayes said.

“Unless we are going to staff our hospitals with robots we need to attract the allied health therapists, radiologists, cleaners, security and wards people who actually staff a hospital.

“The wage cap simply has to go.

“It is cratering the health workforce and pushing people to seek work in Queensland and Victoria where wages are higher and housing is much cheaper.”

Labor candidate for the Upper Hunter Peree Watson believes regional healthcare continues to be in crisis.

“An announcement for a new hospital on the eve of an election will not erase the fact that our health system is understaffed and overworked,” she said.

But the Labor candidate stopped short of confirming if the party will match the Coalition’s cash splash in the horse capital.

Instead she spruiked the party’s “comprehensive plan” to rebuild, which included minimum and enforceable safe staffing levels, scrapping the wages cap, and investing $76 million to attract and retain talented workers.

At more than 100 years old, the Scott Memorial Hospital has seen several minor refurbishment projects undertaken to prolong the life of the facilities, including an upgrade to the emergency department in 2012 and the short stay surgical unit in 2015, but no major refurbishments.

NSW Regional Health Minister Bronnie Taylor said the 48-bed facility which provided a range of services including a 24 hour emergency department, general surgical, and aged care services, needed to meet modern healthcare standards.

She said a redevelopment would see additional funding directed to address staffing issues.

“It has served the Scone community well. However, it is now due for a comprehensive redevelopment,” she said.

“Upon completion of the redevelopment, additional funding will be allocated to staffing and operating costs.”

Nationals Member for the Upper Hunter Dave Layzell added the investment would deliver a modern, purpose-built facility to meet the growing needs of the region.

“I have no doubt that with this redevelopment we will see more health workers want to call our region home,” Mr Layzell said.

“Building new health facilities plays a big part in helping to attract and retain health workers and ensuring better health outcomes for patients.”

Last month The Daily Telegraph reported a crisis which had unfolded at the Maitland Hospital, dealing with issues of staff shortages, lack of beds and massive wait times.

Internal documents revealed the desperate state of affairs at the state’s newest hospital, as doctors criticised the “suboptimal care” delivered due to lack of funding.

According to the latest Bureau of Health Information data, Maitland saw more than 2000 emergency admissions leave the hospital without treatment between July and September last year – the highest figure in NSW.