NT Government dupes Alice on new outpatient unit

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LETTER TO THE EDITOR

In 2019 the Federal Government announced $25.7m for a new Ambulatory Care Centre at the Alice Springs hospital, essentially an outpatient department.

In 2021 the NT Government announced that the centre will deliver a broad range of services including renal dialysis, oncology, obstetrics and gynaecology clinical services and midwifery, to meet the growing demand of the region.

It turns out the NT Government is now allocating the whole $25.7m to build a new renal dialysis unit at the hospital. There will be no other services provided in this new centre. There will be no “broad range of services”.

Instead, the NT Government will move 90% of the renal dialysis service from the Flynn Drive Community Health Centre, which has been the hub for renal dialysis in Alice Springs for more than 30 years. The Government intends to retain one “pod” of 16 renal dialysis chairs at the Flynn Drive Community Health Centre, as a “back up” for the new hospital unit.

The Flynn Drive unit has been in need of a complete upgrade for many years. The NT Government has chosen to use this Federal funding for a new hospital renal dialysis unit, rather than pay for an upgrade of the Flynn Drive Renal Dialysis facility.

Alice Springs has been duped again.

“This centralising of renal dialysis into an acute hospital setting demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the value of community based health services.

It will mean that literally hundreds of patients, their families and support staff will now have to commute to and from the hospital for renal dialysis every day, creating exponentially more congestion in an already over-burdened, confined, extremely busy hospital campus.

This is a huge change to health service delivery in Alice Springs and it is clear the Government has not thought through the massive implications for the entire town.

It is an excellent example of why centralising NT Health Services back to Darwin, which occurred in 2021, is bad for regional areas, such as Alice Springs. Clearly bureaucrats and politicians who do not live in the town or care about the town are making bad decisions for regional centres such as Alice Springs.

I am appalled by the lack of community consultation and the lack of consideration given to how this decision will adversely impact the lives of patients and their families who are dependent on renal dialysis.

“The new unit will include 48 renal dialysis chairs. The design is currently being finalised. Construction is due to commence in 2024. This additional pressure on an already strained hospital is senseless. The only positive appears be that locating the renal unit at the hospital may take pressure off chronic staffing issues, with the renal unit accessing hospital staff when needed.

Robyn Lambley, Independent Member for Araluen.

1 COMMENT

  1. Having been the grateful recipient of services supplied by both the hospital and the services provided by Flynn Drive I cannot see any sense in centralising these services to the hospital.
    I have already had to circle the block several times trying to find disabled parking in front of casualty and have heard recently of a man from one of the outlying communities suffering severe pain but not being able to easily access the hospital. Thank the government for the excellent mobile services offered by the staff at Flynn Drive.
    Bush Bus has had to disembark bush patients at Sid Ross for them to find their own way to hospital. Like so many other facilities in the town the hospital has outgrown what it was set up for. (Try disabled parking to access the post office.)
    The government’s approach has been to shift all facilities to Darwin, like the pattern set up by commercial enterprises such as banks simply to save money. Never mind social responsibility.
    Try getting an Ombudsman, or a query answered by Jacana or PAWA. “We will try to answer your problem within four days.”
    In the distant past you could visit their office here if needed, but now it costs too much. Pass the cost onto the consumer. I had no response from Darwin with a car registration renewal on line and eventually had to drive the 50 Km round trip to the MVR here.
    The truth is that we are simply an insignificant nuisance value blob on Darwin’s distant horizon. But I must also say thank you to the hospital and ambulance and Flynn drive for excellent service and care.

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