Critical doctor shortage shuts down Shellharbour, Bulli EDs

In an unprecedented move, the health service closed two of the Illawarra's three emergency departments last night as doctor staffing levels reached new lows.Health administrators were forced to divert patients from Bulli and Shellharbour emergency departments after exhausting efforts to fill shifts with locum doctors. Shellharbour's closure signals a significant worsening of the region's doctor shortage, bringing the second stage of South Eastern Sydney Illawarra Health's "peak demand strategy" into play for the first time this winter.----------------------------------------------------

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  • More patients will be turned away from Bulli Hospital ----------------------------------------------------"The decision to do this was made in consultation with our doctors and nursing staff and is the result of four of our medical staff falling ill in rapid succession, along with the shortage of locum doctors to cover these shifts at short notice," a spokeswoman said last night."The area health service made exhaustive efforts to cover this eight-hour period with sufficient doctors, however it was not possible."The decision to take this course of action is unprecedented, however will ensure patients are given the best care possible during this time."Until 8am today, two doctors will provide basic treatment at Shellharbour, while all ambulances will be diverted.Should patients who attend the emergency department privately need more complex care, they may be taken by patient transport services to Wollongong. Patients will be diverted from Bulli Emergency Department until Thursday.The site has already closed at least six times this winter under stage one of the strategy.The spokeswoman said the decision to concentrate staff at Wollongong and Shoalhaven hospitals "ensures these facilities are operating efficiently" and are fully staffed.Last week the Mercury revealed the health service had paid locums above the NSW Health-capped hourly pay rates more than 20 times this month to keep services going.

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