REVEALED: Doctor lifts the lid on a health service in crisis
A COFFS Harbour Professor is putting his job on the line to lift the lid on what he says is a second class health service.
Professor Ned Abraham is fed up with the culture of inaction, bullying and lack of transparency.
He says he's not the only senior clinician at the Coffs Harbour Health Campus to feel this way but he's one of the few willing to speak out.
"I am not scared, I am able to speak out but the majority of my colleagues are not because they know when it comes to 2023 and their contracts are up they might not be extended," Prof Abraham said.
"I am not scared because my priorities in life are a little bit utopian. If something is not right I will speak out and face the consequences."
Prof Abraham is no stranger to speaking out, appearing on television questioning hospital management's handling of the 'insect incident' late last year when operating theatres were closed due to an insect infestation.
"We were told unequivocally on the local news that it was all bushfire related while the loud word on the street was that in fact someone had cancelled the pest control contract a year or so before."
He has revealed another shocking incident which led to the closure of the five operating theatres for a week roughly one year ago.
"There was sewage running into the corridor of the operating theatres from the staff toilet ... because every bit of maintenance in the hospital is not being attended to properly because there is no funding."
In 2018, he took on management when he became aware clinicians were not being paid their correct entitlements for performing procedures at Macksville Hospital, more than 50km away.
When a group of underpaid workers wrote to management in an attempt to recoup their pay, they were threatened with legal action being told they were colluding; so Prof Abraham took it on alone. He wrote to the Premier of NSW and the situation was rectified within days.
"I have never worked a day in my life at Macksville. I did it for my junior colleagues who were missing out."
The colorectal surgeon has worked at the hospital for 15 years.
"Yes I could lose my job over this but it's a matter of principle and when it comes to the provision of public healthcare we are being treated like second class citizens," he said.
He lists several examples of Port Macquarie being preferenced.
"We struggled for well over ten years to get a vascular surgical service in Coffs while Port, our sister hospital, have had two resident vascular surgeons for well over 15 years and are currently cleared to get the third."
He also listed endoscopic biliary services, urology and the positions of a duty anaesthetist, a surgical fellow and an overnight medical registrar.
"The Coffs Harbour Hospital is possibly the only hospital of its size and level of care (Level 5) in the country that does not have an on duty medical registrar overnight".
He also spoke about the short-staffed Emergency Department and the likelihood of paediatric services losing accreditation.
Being a safe National Party seat for decades now, he says Coffs Harbour has a history of missing out, despite the fact the city is in the throws of a $194-million hospital upgrade.
The situation has become so bad, he says the advisory board (the Medical Staff Council) made up of senior clinicians to help guide the management of the hospital is considering disbanding.
"There is no point in having a Medical Staff Council as the clinicians are never listened to anyway but the proposal was rejected because the clinicians will continue to fight for their patients in what seems to be a David verse Goliath situation.
"The clinicians have gone through all the appropriate channels to be heard but to no avail. But I would like to remind your readers that, in the biblical story, David won."