A specialist paediatric surgeon is being recruited to work at Wollongong Hospital on a regular basis according to the local health district.
Demand for these services will dictate how often the surgeon, who is currently working in NSW, will travel to the hospital to provide surgery to local patients.
Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District executive director clinical operations Margaret Martin said discussions with the surgeon were continuing.
“There is limited demand for such specialised surgery in the local area and the surgeon will help meet this demand – ensuring that more procedures can be carried out locally,” she said.
“The aim of this appointment at Wollongong Hospital is to see more Illawarra children and infants receive care closer to home.”
Ms Martin said some young infants and children with more serious emergency or complex conditions may still be referred to the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network for more specialised surgeries.
“Whilst we understand it is often difficult for parents to travel to Sydney, this is sometimes necessary for children to receive the more complex care they need,” she said.
This week NSW Labor promised it would initiate an independent review into paediatric services at Wollongong Hospital if it won the state election next March.
Wollongong MP Paul Scully said the need for a dedicated, full-time paediatric surgeon would form part of the independent review.
“It is really hard on families to force them to travel to Sydney when we are supposed to have a world class hospital here in Wollongong,” he said.
Wollongong Hospital lost its only paediatric surgeon in 2013, and patient advocacy groups and concerned residents have since lobbied for a replacement.
However Ms Martin said the district operated under the statewide Paediatric Service Capability Framework – which utilised a “networked approach to paediatric acute care services”.
“The district aims to achieve a suitable balance between providing safe and appropriate surgical services locally,” she said, “and ensuring those cases which require more complex procedures have timely access to the expertise of dedicated children’s hospitals and specialist surgeons.”
Ms Martin said a range of paediatric surgeries were already performed by general and specialist surgeons at Wollongong – mostly in ENT, orthopaedic, urology and dental.