Hervey Bay ICU was never at risk: health board chairman

LETTER TO EDITOR: As chair of the Wide Bay Hospital and Health Board I am dismayed that the Fraser Coast Chronicle continues to misrepresent developments around the ICU care unit at Hervey Bay Hospital.

Confidence in the ICU has suffered as a result of the Chronicle's poor journalism and belated attempts to gloss over its errors.

From early February, the Chronicle has published false reports of the ICU closing, of 10 jobs going in the ICU, of dollars being more important than peoples' wellbeing.

The sick and vulnerable in the region have had their peace of mind upended.

The reputations of board members and senior health service executives who live and work in the Wide Bay community have suffered as a result of impliedly being called liars.

Continued reassurances that the ICU was safe were given little weight by the Chronicle while inflammatory allegations were promoted.

Readers may recall that on February 8, the Chronicle single-handedly closed the intensive care unit.

"Intensive Care Unit Scrapped" and "Exclusive: Lives Put at Risk as $ axe falls on the ICU" headlined reports that were completely wrong and based on hearsay.

It was a grievous error and the health service chief executive and I met with Chronicle management to call attention to this.

The February 11 edition of the Chronicle had a rethink: "Reports are wrong" and "Hervey Bay ICU unit safe" were headlines that acknowledged the error three days earlier.

The board appreciated this correction and considered the matter settled.

In yesterday's Chronicle, the Wide Bay is told the ICU has been "Resuscitated" and that a "... health backflip saves intensive care unit ...".

This despite the diagnosis of good health the Chronicle itself gave the "patient" on February 11.

The chain of headlines indicates it is not the board or health service back flipping on the ICU status.

The ICU was never at risk and no decision has ever been reversed.

It is disgraceful that yesterday's positive news that three permanent intensivists were to lead the unit could be characterised in this way.

The Chronicle's self-congratulatory editorial is no better than the act of somebody who lights a fire, reports it and then attempts to claim credit for any good that might emerge from the damage that has resulted.

Once again as a member of the Wide Bay community and WBHH chair, I wish to state for the record the Hervey Bay Hospital ICU was never going to close.

There was never any risk to jobs or service capability.

An internal review by senior doctors led to a decision to appoint three permanent intensive care specialists.

It is a sustainable staffing structure and is self-funded.

It was what our doctors wanted.

Union claims that they have influenced the conduct of this internal review or the ICU staffing decision outcome are hollow. Unions have played no part in this process.

The new ICU model will ensure quality care for the critically ill of the Fraser Coast and that has always been the board's priority.

This is cause for celebration and another step forward for health services across the Wide Bay.

- Dominic Devine, Wide Bay Hospital and Health board chairman.

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