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UnitingCare Health to keep St Stephen’s Hospital in Maryborough open

St Stephen’s Hospital, Maryborough
UnitingCare Health has denied reports that the St Stephen’s, the only private hospital in Maryborough, may close due to a reduction in in-patient numbers.

Chief Executive Officer of Uniting Care Health Richard Royle said the problem is that all the practising medical specialists except one reside in Hervey Bay and want their patients treated there.

“There is a concern by the doctors and anaesthetists that there is a lack of critical care backup in Maryborough’s public hospital, meaning a difficulty in undertaking complex surgical cases,” Mr Royle said.

“The other part of this problem is that there is an extreme shortage of GPs in Maryborough and some illnesses that have effected the remaining ones. That has led to the difficulty of GPs having adequate time to admit and treat their own patient’s in the private hospital, instead choosing to treat them in the public hospital where there is already full-time medical staff employed.”

Uniting Care are currently fast tracking plans to build a 60 bed in-patient facility in Hervey Bay to help cope with the demand for care from Fraser Coast residents and doctors.

They have also been working with the general practitioner community in Maryborough to how they can retain some services in Maryborough and with specialists to see if they can provide some on call backup for the GPs, to assist them in treating patients if they require admission into Maryborough St Stephen’s.

CEO of the Wide Bay division of General Practice Christine Murphy says that there is a concern about the GP shortage not just in Maryborough but nationwide.

“There’s a lot of pressure on GPs to actually cover those shortages, but one of the difficulties is that Maryborough is not classed as a district of workforce shortage.

“If it was, it would make it easier to recruit overseas trained doctors.”

According to Ms Murphy other factors contributing to the doctor shortage is an ageing general and GP population.

“We certainly don’t want to lose any services in our region. It is about the community working together and moving forward to assist all levels of medical services in our community.”

Mr Royle said there’s a keen interest in maintaining services at a hospital which the Uniting Church has had an active involvement with for over 45 years.

“The Uniting Church has and will always continue to maintain and expand a large range of services to the Fraser Coast region through Blue Care, Lifeline and the hospitals.”

Photo : St Stephen’s Hospital, Maryborough