November 21, 2013
The face of health care in the South Burnett could look radically different in the future if ideas being tossed around at present become a reality.
The inaugural meeting of a new Health Advisory Group, set up under the umbrella of the region’s peak economic development body, South Burnett Directions, was held in Kingaroy on Tuesday night.
The group has been formed as the result of one of South Burnett Direction’s 10 initial identified projects, ie “Improve South Burnett’s medical services through public/private partnerships”.
SBRC Economic Development Manager Phil Harding told southburnett.com.au one of the first items on the agenda was a mapping of all health services in the South Burnett so the working group could focus on how things could be improved.
Another idea discussed was the possible co-location of the South Burnett Private Hospital with the new Kingaroy Public Hospital.
“We would like to explore the possibility of working with Queensland Health to do a co-location,” Mr Harding said.
He said such an arrangement worked elsewhere in Queensland and could work in Kingaroy.
The Darling Downs and District Health Service has already announced that a new Kingaroy Hospital is a priority.
“We would like to make sure we are all going down the same path,” Mr Harding said.
Ms Phillipa Blakey, CEO of Pulse Health – the operators of the South Burnett Private Hospital – said co-location was definitely a possibility worth exploring.
But Mr Harding cautioned the idea was “really long term”.
“Everyone seems to think it would be really good for our region, and both buildings are old. Queensland Health thinks it’s a good idea. We have had a couple of informal chats and now want to formalise the approach.
“But there’s no guarantee that it’s going to happen.”
In the meantime, Council – as landlord – would continue to keep the current private hospital building in good operating condition.
Mr Harding said the focus of the new Health Advisory Group was economic development – improving services through a private enterprise approach, creating jobs and avoiding duplication.
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As well as attending the working group meeting, Pulse Health CEO Phillipa Blakey was in Kingaroy to attend a Medical Advisory Committee meeting at the South Burnett Private Hospital.
This is a regular meeting with clinicians who attend at the hospital and is an opportunity to review different aspects of services.
Pulse confirmed in July that it would continue to manage the hospital but now the decision has been made, Ms Blakey said things were going well: “It’s a great business”.
Pulse have signed on for three years and seven months, with options to extend the contract.
“The staff are doing a great job. Michelle (Garrett) is doing a great job settling into the role as General Manager,” she said.
“We have appointed two nurse unit managers – staff promoted into these roles – to strengthen the management team at the hospital.”
Ms Blakey said other changes included a recent expansion in gynaecological surgery at the hospital.
Pulse also planned to bring in some new operating equipment – endoscopes – in the New Year.
“Surgeon Dr Russell Milkins is very excited about it,” Ms Blakey said.
An ear, nose and throat specialist had been identified as an area of need, and Pulse were currently talking to a surgeon about the possibility of providing this service.
Work will also start soon on upgrading the bathrooms in the building, a project which is being assisted by the Kingaroy Rotary Club.
Funding has also been sourced for renovations of Wards A and D. These upgrades, which are expected to start this month, will increase the useable space inside patient rooms and provide better access for nurses.
Council has budgeted to replace the roof of the building.
“The roof leaks and needs to be repaired,” Mr Harding said. “It looks like it will be replaced and at the same time we will relocate the air-conditioners from the roof to the ground.”
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Current services available at the South Burnett Private Hospital include: General surgeon, orthopaedic surgeon, gynaecologist, urologist, ophthalmologist, maxillofacial surgeon, dentist, cardiologist, paediatrician, hearing specialist, resting echo cardiograms, stress testing plus medical admissions.
Pulse Health is planning to hold an Open Day at the hospital next year after the renovations to the patient rooms have been completed.
Council is also establishing a “Gift Fund” through its subsidiary company which leases the property to Pulse so members of the community can donate to improve facilities, eg purchase new lounges for the waiting room.