Coronary care unit works from cupboard in Tweed Hospital
THE hospital ward that senior clinicians describe as a "cupboard somewhere between emergency and radiography" houses some of the facility's most critical patients and its directors want to see Tweed MP Geoff Provest live up to his $48million election pledge to fix it.
The Tweed Hospital's coronary care unit, for patients who suffer a heart attack, used to have seven beds.
Now one bed is used as an office and another is mostly closed because there are not enough nurses to service it.
This is despite the growing demand on the unit's services.
In 2010, 75 patients with heart failure or cardiac shock were treated. This almost doubled in 2012 to reach 142 patients.
To cope, doctors say they are forced to push patients out of beds prematurely, which has slashed the average length of stay from 5.3 nights to 4.8.
Cardiologist Ajay Gandhi said the outcome was heartbreaking.
"Some of them can't even travel - they're old people, they don't have families," Dr Gandhi said.
"They come here from the emergency department with symptoms of a heart attack - chest pains, heart failure and major breathing problems. They're really all quite frail."
Head of general medicine Ibrahim Abdool said a lack of services such as coronary angiography, which tracks profuse internal bleeding, compounded the problem.
Patients are transferred to Gold Coast or John Flynn for some of the "most basic services" like angiography, but ambulances can be too full and beds in other hospitals too scarce.
"Sometimes they have to wait three or five days on monitor," Dr Abdool said. "We have to make decisions on who stays here or who leaves, and it's difficult."
Dr Abdool has worked at the Tweed Hospital for more than 20 years and he has a strong message to NSW parliamentarians about their $48m pledge for the hospital's long overdue redevelopment.
"I've been in this game a long time. I don't believe in promises because we set our hopes so high and so many times it has happened that we don't get anything at the end.
"I hope we get the money that we were promised.
"It is for the benefit of the local people of Tweed.
"We care for our people, we care for our patients, we want the best outcome to be served with the best medicine that we can provide, but we need the facility to do it - by ourselves we can't."
If the expansion is funded, the coronary unit will merely return to six-bed capacity in 2017, increasing to eight beds after 2022.