THE Bathurst Hospital budget is growing much more quickly than at Orange and more than 100 staff have been added at Bathurst in the past seven years.
That's according to Western NSW Local Health District chief executive officer Scott McLachlan.
Mr McLachlan put the health district's view to the Western Advocate in response to persistent criticism about the level of service and capability at the hospital.
"We have put a lot of additional funding into expanding services at Bathurst just knowing there were patients that were needing to leave Bathurst for their care," he said. "The whole aim is to make sure that every patient, wherever possible, can remain locally."
Mr McLachlan said the Bathurst budget had increased by 41 per cent in the past seven years to $90 million.
"In comparison, Orange's budget has grown by 26 per cent," he said.
"The financial year we're going into [2021-22] will see a further growth by around $1.7 million [for Bathurst], with some additional services for the hospital."
"Significant growth" has also been seen in staffing at Bathurst Hospital, he said.
"There's now around 470 full-time positions at Bathurst. That's grown by 116 positions in the last seven years - or around 32 per cent.
"There's been a 60 per cent increase in doctors, a 33 per cent increase in nursing staff and 23 per cent increase in allied health staff."
Mr McLachlan pointed to a number of specific service enhancements or new services in recent years.
"Back in 2016, we commenced an orthopaedic elective surgery service, and that saw around a 60 per cent increase in orthopaedic surgery able to be done at Bathurst.
"We've increased the role of the intensive care to be able to look after more sick patients.
"For the emergency department, back in 2017, we added another short stay unit.
"That's now grown to a full 24-hour-a-day service for the patients that are not complex, that don't need to be in an emergency department for critical care, that can be cared for quickly.
"We've expanded the maternity services, so that we can now look after mums delivering at 34 weeks as opposed to what it was, 37 weeks. That has been a significant benefit to mums not having to leave Bathurst for the delivery of their baby.
"In that time, we've also added four dedicated midwife roles into the community to help with both antenatal and postnatal, or pre- and post-birth, support for pregnant mums."
Mr McLachlan said "what's been regarded as one of the state's best hospital-in-the-home services" had been expanded at Bathurst.
"Bathurst, for the last 12 years, has had a service that has set the standard for NSW for delivering care in the home for people who need some intravenous antibiotics, really complex wound dressings or other complex treatments that, five or 10 years ago, would have typically been done in a hospital.
"That service now sees over eight per cent of the patients in total that are admitted to Bathurst Hospital - that's probably double what Orange and Dubbo services would see.
That service now sees over eight per cent of the patients in total that are admitted to Bathurst Hospital - that's probably double what Orange and Dubbo services would see.
"Late last year, we started up a new telestroke service; that's a specialist neurologist that's available 24/7 to help patients that have had a stroke stay in Bathurst or get access to really good tertiary care - if they need a clot removed or complex drugs to help or resolve the impact of their stroke."
'That's permanent funding for staffing for those beds'
Mr McLachlan said a new orthopaedic emergency surgery service had opened at Bathurst that's aiming to reduce, by about 80 per cent, the number of "patients that have needed to leave Bathurst for simple repairs to a broken bone or other orthopaedic issues".
When Mr McLachlan spoke to the Advocate, the service had started two weeks previously, and he said "we've now had two surgical lists that have seen seven patients receive surgery in Bathurst and stay in Bathurst that would have needed previously to have gone to Orange".
"The most recent list had a patient with a really complex shoulder injury being able to be repaired in Bathurst and that's a significant improvement to the types of patients that we've been able to look after in Bathurst," he said.
Mr McLachlan said another five beds had just opened in the hospital's medical ward.
"That's permanent funding for the staffing for those beds," he said.
"On top of that, in the last two months, we've had a further six beds open as our surge beds as we've seen a lot of increased patient demand come in the past couple of months compared to what we'd normally see for this time of year.
"A lot of the hospitals around the state and the country are seeing a similar trend - seeing some pretty crook patients needing to come to the hospital who haven't been able to get access to some of the care through the COVID shutdown and other periods over the last 12 months.
"We're just about to open up three new treatment spaces around the emergency department that will see more patients able to be cared for quicker in the emergency department.
"A new medical assessment unit that sits in the medical ward has got some increased staffing to be able to care for some really complex patients with chronic disease conditions and other illnesses."
Mr McLachlan said the health district was "just about to open a new community-based rehabilitation service that will allow us to provide rehabilitation support for patients in their home rather than being in the hospital for a long period of time".
"That's a full medical, nursing and allied health service."
The health district CEO said a number of new specialist staff had been recruited in the past six to 12 months.
"In coming months, we have got a new anaesthetist starting, a new intensivist, that staffs the intensive care unit, a new cardiologist - that's one of the best cardiologists we'll see come into the region; out of New Zealand.
"He's obviously got to navigate the quarantine process, but we expect to see him starting either later this month or early next month.
"We're currently recruiting a new paediatrician, another general surgeon, a gastroenterologist to do enterscopes and other services."
As reported in the Western Advocate last week, Mr McLachlan said a new ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon will be recruited to replace a surgeon who recently retired.
"I know there's been some concerns recently about patients needing to leave Bathurst," Mr McLachlan said.