CONFUSION surrounds Tuesday’s closure of Fremantle Hospital’s Emergency Department, with the health department and local hospital chiefs giving out mixed signals.
Scotching local rumours of a “48-hour grace period” a South Metropolitan Health Service spokesperson insisted that after 7am on February 3, Fremantle will not accept any more emergency patients, who must instead present to Fiona Stanley in Murdoch.
But Fremantle Hospital and Health Service executive director David Blythe said: “On Tuesday, February 3 both the Fremantle and Fiona Stanley Hospital emergency departments will be staffed to meet the needs of all patients who require emergency care.”
Adding to the confusion, a Fremantle Hospital media spokesperson said both hospitals would be “adequately staffed on the day” resulting in concurrent shifts. Only life-threatening cases will be dealt with at Fremantle’s ED after 7am.
Fremantle Labor MP Simone McGurk says the transition arrangements appear messy and “a recipe for disaster”.
“How are they going to staff and manage both emergency departments for that transition period?” she asks.
“They’ll need double staff—they need to manage the closure and the opening.”
When asked whether Labor would re-open the department if elected to government, she said it would be considered.
“We’ll make a policy decision closer to the election but at the last state election we promised we would have an ED operating out of Fremantle Hospital,” she noted.
WA health shadow Roger Cook went further, committing Labor to re-opening an emergency service of some description at Fremantle, but “definitely not a full-blown ED”.
“Whether that means an extended hours GP clinic or low-level emergency care … we’ll see what that looks like in the lead up to the 2017 election.”
In all, 15 departments are transferring from Fremantle to Murdoch including cardiology, oncology, the renal unit, paediatrics, neurology, obstetrics and gynaecology and specialty surgery.
Slated to remain at the hospital are aged care and rehabilitation services, elective surgery, the intensive care unit and mental health.
A day admissions centre is believed to be planned for the vacated ED space.
Hospital media spokeswoman Claire Harris says up to 100 patients will be moved by a convoy of ambulances on Sunday, with police and Main Roads in attendance.
Ms McGurk says it’s vital for Fremantle the vacated departments are put to good use.
“Fifty per cent of hospital services will go and they need to make sure there is a proper reconfiguration so it can meet its new role and attract staff to Fremantle.
“Some of us will be going down on Tuesday to make a bit of noise but we won’t interfere with the move.
“This is a bad decision for Fremantle … it’s an entertainment precinct, has a growing population, it’s a working port. I think we are going to rue the day Fremantle ED was closed.”
by EDDIE ALBRECHT