Home' Phillip Island and San Remo Advertiser : July 20,2016 Contents THE ADVERTISER, WEDNESDAY, JULY 20, 2016 - PAGE 13
INCREASED numbers of residents
and visitors to the island have re-
sulted in funding of a larger police
station, yet the same argument has
not been applied to emergency health
facilities on the island.
Whilst a new medical hub has been
announced with great fanfare, it will
not be a 24-hour service.
It comprises a number of consult-
ing/treatment rooms for the use of
visiting specialists and allied health
workers during normal business
Whilst this will reduce the need
for residents to travel to access such
care, it does nothing to improve the
current lack of 24-hour medical care
on the Island.
Why do we need such care on the
Residents have identified a number
of issues that affect their ability to ac-
cess care at Wonthaggi or any other
These include delays due to dis-
tance from hospital (45 minutes
from the nearest hospital assuming
good road conditions) and concern
over how this affects critical patients,
dependence upon a limited number
of ambulances and paramedic sup-
port on the Island, traffic issues at
peak holiday times and potential
road closures at choke points when
significant accidents occur.
The large numbers of tourists that
swell the population by a factor of
ten during holiday times, also greatly
increase the frequency of medical is-
sues needing care.
It is also worth noting that the
two population groups showing the
greatest growth on the Island are the
young and old, who are both more
likely to have urgent health issues
through falls, fevers and general ac-
cidents meaning that the need of ur-
gent medical care will increase over
The interim CEO of Bass Coast
Health (BCH), Jan Childs, recently
informed a meeting of the Philip Is-
land Progress Association (PIPA) that
she considered it would be poor ‘clin-
ical governance’ and ‘unsafe’ to sup-
port a 24-hour facility on the Island
and that she was confident that the
island was adequately serviced by
ambulances and paramedics for tri-
age and medical evacuation to Wont-
haggi or Melbourne Hospitals.
She assured the meeting that the
Ambulance service has contingency
plans to support the community,
even when there are road closures,
such as recently occurred.
However, in a room of a dozen peo -
ple, several reported that they had
been unable to access ambulance
services when required.
This is obviously an area that re-
quires urgent investigation to de-
termine whether the coverage is ad-
In a letter published in the Philip
Island and San Remo Advertiser
in April 2014, Mal McCann (team
manager for ambulance services in
Cowes) state: ‘The common belief
that there was a gaping hole in pri-
mary care services on the island was
misguided’ and that residents would
be better served upgrading the Won-
thaggi hospital rather than building
a 24-hour medical facility on the Is-
At a community meeting, his re-
sponse to comments that many
small towns have hospitals was re-
ported as “People keep saying look
at all those hospitals in the country.
Just because they’ve got a shed with
a hospital sign doesn’t mean diddly
squat. Half of them don’t even have
This statement is dismissive and
misleading as the inspection of the
data indicates. The reality
Boort is one such town.
Boort has a population of 4,325.
It also has a hospital that provides
services including urgent care, acute
care (9 beds), minor surgery, resi-
dential aged care, dental services,
district nursing and a range of com-
munity health and support service.
This hospital deals with 28.4 total
admissions and 14.8 emergency ad-
missions per quarter (all admission
statistics are sourced from http://
averaged over the last 5 quarters).
The hospital has three visiting
medical officers, registered/enrolled/
and district nurses and has a team of
allied health care workers, primary
care assistants and a dental team.
Urgent care is provided by nurses
from the ward plus visiting doctors
(on a private basis).
The hospital has recently been
granted a $14 million redevelopment
which will improve existing facilities
and facilitate ageing in place and de-
This is much more than a shed!
Kerang, another small town (popu-
lation 3,872) with a hospital, is locat-
ed 52kms from Boort (estimated 39
minutes travel time between them).
This hospital provides emergency
care, oncology, aged care, obstetrics,
acute care, day surgery plus general
surgery and a wide range of commu-
nity based services.
Radiological and imaging services
exist onsite. The emergency depart-
ment at this hospital has treated on
average 383.4 total admissions and
177.8 emergency cases per quarter
(averaged over the last 5 quarters).
It is serviced by visiting specialists,
from ten disciplines, and medical
practitioners from local towns.
Kerang Hospital has just complet-
ed $36 million of capital projects.
Again, this does not sound like a
The distance between these facili-
ties is similar to that between Cowes
Therefore the relatively close dis-
tance between facilities should not
preclude the establishment of a
hospital/24-hour emergency unit for
Notably, the towns identified above
have much smaller populations than
Philip Island, do not experience a sig-
nificant influx of tourists and have a
number of alternate routes between
In fact, these factors suggest that
Philip Island is more deserving of a
hospital/24-hour facility than some
of the existing towns.
Apollo Bay has a resident popula-
tion of 1,095 and experiences a pro-
nounced number of tourists in sum-
mer, similar to Philip Island but on a
much smaller scale.
The Apollo Bay hospital provides
urgent, acute care, residential aged
care and community based pro-
The hospital admits an average of
21.4 urgent care patients per quarter
(averaged over the last 5 quarters)
and not surprisingly, emergency ad-
missions are much higher in sum-
Nurses triage patients presenting
for urgent care and if required, call
in a GP from the local practice at cost
to the patient.
Korumburra has a population of
4,373 and the Korumburra hospital
provides urgent, acute, residential
aged care and allied and community
services. It admits a total of 178.4
patients per quarter (averaged over
the last 5 quarters) with 81.6 of these
being emergencies. The urgent care
unit is staffed by hospital nurses who
triage patients and contact an on-call
doctor as required.
These are just a few examples, but
there are many more.
Surely it is obvious that if other
towns, much smaller than Philip Is-
land, need hospitals with 24-hour
emergency care to service their com-
munities, then so does Philip Island.
Ms Childs informed PIPA that she
believes it would be ‘poor clinical
governance’ and ‘unsafe’ to provide a
hospital or 24-hour emergency facil-
ity on the Island.
Yet these hospitals, in other health
networks, are run with ‘appropriate
clinical governance’ and are safe.
What prevents BCH from perform-
ing in the same way?
So what does after-hours or emer-
gency coverage does the island have?
Current after-hours options avail-
able to islanders are the ambulance
service or nurse-on-call by phone,
who provide triage and advice about
the treatment of non-urgent situa-
tions e.g. Category 4 and 5 cases.
If required the Ambulance service
will provide evacuation to either
Wonthaggi or a Melbourne hospital
or treatment via a paramedic.
So what is the BCH plan for
Philip Island Health care?
When asked what provision for
24-hour care is planned, Ms Childs
identified telemedicine as being one
As she described this process to
the meeting, this would involve in-
terfacing with specialised computer
equipment to provide remote clini-
cians with diagnostic information to
access medical advice.
Where such equipment could be
housed to be safely accessible on a
24-hour basis was not identified and
how such equipment could be sup-
ported by 24-hour pharmacy and im-
aging was also not specified.
Without further information, it is
hard to see that this would be a sig-
nificant improvement to the current
Two of the top four reasons that
people use a hospital emergency de-
partment (2014 NAMDS report) are:
1. That the situation was too urgent
to wait to see a GP. Time taken to wait
for an ambulance and then travel to
Wonthaggi does little to reduce stress
and anxiety experienced by patients
and clinical risk in some case. The
costs of using the ambulance service
are also significant. Evacuation by
an ambulance is estimated to cost
on average $700 (more if a helicop-
ter is required) versus $240-$480 to
use an Emergency Department (esti-
mates from). Perhaps the difference
could help fund such a facility for the
2. Didn’t know where else to go.
This becomes even more of a prob-
lem when people are unfamiliar with
an area i.e. tourists.
Conversations with islanders, visi-
tors and comments from the 1500+
signatories (at the time of writing) to
an online petition demanding a hos-
pital, all indicate that development of
a hospital, or a 24-hour urgent care
unit, on the Island is a significant pri-
ority for a significant part of the com-
munity. Whilst this may not be rep-
resentative sample, it underlines just
how important this service gap is to
residents. BCH planning, as outlined
to PIPA, indicates that there is no
intention to provide such a service.
But why should Islanders have less
medical care than other small Vic-
torian towns, particularly when the
geographic and demographic factors
can make accessing care even more
difficult for Islanders.
To alter the existing plans and get
the care residents and visitors want,
we need to make ourselves heard
loud and clear. Petitions are regarded
by politicians as one piece of corre-
spondence, regardless of how many
signatures they bear. Individual let-
ters to ministers are by far the best
way to influence politicians, who can
I encourage any islander or inter-
ested visitor to send such a letter
to the Victorian Minister of Health,
Shadow Minister of Health and Pre-
mier outlining their concerns.
The Australian Institute of Health
and Welfare has identified that poor-
er health outcomes in areas outside
major centres are a direct result of a
lack of access to services due to dis-
tance, geography and cost.
We must act to prevent Islanders
and visitors being part of these sta-
Case for a 24-hour medical unit on Phillip Island
By Lynda Marston PHD
Dig in for
NATIONAL Tree Day has come around once
again, so why not take part in the country’s
largest community tree planting and nature
care event right here in Bass Coast?
National Tree Day is a great opportunity to
get outdoors and do something positive for our
Cape Woolamai Coast Action Group will host
an event this year in Bass Coast.
“We will be planting in the foreshore reserve
south of the Woolamai House development,
starting at 10am and meeting at the northern
end of The Esplanade,” Cape Woolamai Coast
Action’s secretary Kate McLaughlin, said.
“Together we will be planting 700 indigenous
plants at this site, with tools and equipment
The Cape Woolamai site continues on from
last year’s National Tree Day plantings.
This section of the foreshore reserve has re-
cently been reclaimed through realignment of a
The planting will help increase biodiversity
within the area, with the foreshore acting as
part of a wildlife corridor which runs north to
Newhaven, and south to the actual Cape and
This corridor is extremely important for the
wildlife in the Bass Coast region, as it encour-
ages genetic diversity within each species as
well as providing much needed habitat.
If you are looking for something to do on what
will hopefully be a sunny Sunday morning on
July 31, come along and join in the fun whilst
helping improve your local natural environ-
The events have been registered on the Na-
tional Tree Day website at http://treeday.plan-
US Vice President’s granddaughters
visit Phillip Island Penguin Parade
TWO of the granddaughters of US vice-pres-
ident Joe Biden made a flying visit to the Pen-
guin Parade on Sunday night, where they were
treated to a glorious sunset and an unforget-
table experience watching the island’s penguins
Initially it was thought that Mr Biden may ac-
company his granddaughters on this special
visit to Phillip Island, but this did not eventuate.
A low key visit ensued instead.
Two of the three granddaughters in Australia
with the vice president, accompanied by a small
entourage, were looked after by a PINP ranger,
and watched the penguins come ashore from
inside the spectacular underground viewing
area at the parade.
The children Natalie, Finnegan and Naomi,
were on a three-day trip to Australia, with their
Earlier in the day, Mr Biden and the children
enjoyed another island connection.
The group took in a game of AFL football at
the MCG where Carlton played against the West
Phillip Island’s Sam Docherty starred, win-
ning the most possessions during the game,
and was best player for Carlton.
Mr Biden, a champion of cancer research who
lost his son to the disease, opened the $1 bil-
lion Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre in
Melbourne earlier in the day.
He said a leap forward in computing power
is giving researchers an advantage enabling the
patient histories and proteogenomics and clini-
cal phenotypes of almost 60,000 patients in
Australia and the United States to be shared,
in the quest for researchers around the world
to be better be able to understand what causes
particular cancers, and how to target cancers.
Mr Biden’s son died of brain cancer in 2015.
Two of the grand daughters of US vice-president Joe Biden made a flying visit to the
Penguin Parade on Sunday night. The group arrived in Australia on a three-day visit
over the weekend.
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