Health officials have prescribed their long-awaited blueprint for the Illawarra and Shoalhaven, creating three nerve centres to best meet the needs of our rapidly growing and ageing population.
Hubs will be developed at Wollongong, Shellharbour and Shoalhaven to reshape services to meet the needs of the 425,000 residents expected to be living in the region by 2021.
Wollongong will become a specialist tertiary referral and teaching centre, while services will be bolstered at Shellharbour to cater for a rapidly growing population.
Shoalhaven will be developed over the next 10 years, particularly in the areas of cancer and mental health, as it becomes the hub of the southern end of the district.
Bulli and Coledale hospitals will be developed into centres for aged care, while Port Kembla and Kiama will focus on community-based health services.
Port Kembla will also be developed as a district-wide access and referral service, navigating patients to the services they need across the district.
Bulli’s emergency services will be maintained between 7am and 10pm daily.
‘‘This means Bulli Hospital will have a clearly defined role in the provision of emergency primary care services across the district,’’ Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD) board chairman Denis King said.
‘‘When people arrive at Bulli they will know the hospital specialises in lower acuity emergency presentations, while more serious cases requiring a higher level of care will be treated at Wollongong.’’
Clinical Professor King said 89per cent of presentations at Bulli were for ‘‘GP-type ailments’’ therefore it made ‘‘good sense that Bulli was a support role in the network’’.
‘‘This not only gives the community reassurance about the type of service provided at Bulli but it will also strengthen the capability at Wollongong and reduce waiting times for those who present at hospital with less serious conditions.’’
The plan for the region, released yesterday and endorsed by the board, comes after a detailed six-month consultation phase – with input from 800 people representing clinicians, hospital staff, general practitioners, community members and consumer groups. Planners examined data to outline future demand for services across a growing region with a changing demography and health priorities.
The research identified a need for expanded services for indigenous and disadvantaged communities. Professor King said the plan set a clear direction for the delivery of appropriate and equitable services to meet the needs of of the region.
‘‘This plan reinforces the district’s strengths and identifies key areas where quality evidence-based decision making will enable us to operate most effectively and efficiently,’’ he said.
‘‘There will of course be different views about priorities and resources, but as a board we have a responsibility to provide most benefit for the most people, within the workforce and financial constraints that are a reality of our health system.’’