Bulli Hospital will maintain its existing level of emergency care – but with restricted hours, a name change and no ED sign out front.
Dealing a major blow to northern Illawarra residents lobbying for a fully functioning emergency department, the region’s health chief said yesterday ‘‘the simple fact is, in the current profile, in the current population, we cannot justify maintaining Bulli as an emergency department’’.
Clinical Professor Denis King said Bulli’s emergency department would be renamed an emergency primary care centre and operate from 7am to 10pm, seven days a week.
It would provide ‘‘a much-needed alternative access point for lower acuity urgent presentations and ensure capacity at Wollongong is concentrated on more serious high acuity emergencies’’.
The name change would better represent the service available at Bulli, said Professor King, chief of the Illawarra and Shoalhaven district health board.
‘‘Bulli cannot and should not deal with acutely ill children. It’s a simple as that. It’s dangerous to take them there,’’ he said.
‘‘A bit of a flu, bit of a sore ear, fine, but we cannot and should not encourage people to go to Bulli on the basis that it’s an emergency department.
‘‘The residents have worked it out ... our concern is that in the holiday period when all these people come to the northern Illawarra and see that emergency department sign, they will go there with an expectation that is completely unrealistic.’’
Professor King said the board, in its 10-year-plan for the region, wanted to give ‘‘some certainty to Bulli’’.
‘‘I accept that not everyone will like that proposal, but at least now we can say Bulli will stay open, this is the range of services that we provide and they will be provided into the future.’’
Bulli and Coledale hospitals will focus on geriatric medicine, rehabilitation and palliative care.
‘‘We are going to redevelop Bulli Hospital, a new building with extended aged care and palliative care facilities,’’ Professor King said.
‘‘What Bulli does now is very good. The range of services currently offered at Bulli is appropriate for the facility and that’s why we intend to continue them, other than in that overnight period.’’
Professor King said the 2008 Garling Report into the Acute Care Services in NSW Public Hospitals found ED presentations at Bulli were 5,864 in 2011-12.
‘‘This total volume appears too low for sustainable medical staffing and diagnostic capability 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,’’ the report found, noting Wollongong ED was 11km away.
Keira MP Ryan Park said he ‘‘remains unconvinced that Wollongong is going to be able to cope with the added pressure from Bulli being closed between 10pm and 7am’’.
‘‘I would love for all the problems to go away at Bulli, but they remain, and I remain concerned that the people of those northern suburbs are going to continue to find it difficult to join the waiting lists and the waiting queues.’’