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A report concerns new Sydney hospital 'wasn't safe'

Photo: Concerns new Sydney hospital 'wasn't safe'
A report written shortly after Sydney's troubled Northern Beaches Hospital opened in 2018 revealed staffing issues and shortfalls in planning and preparation.

The head of the union representing NSW doctors claims Sydney's troubled Northern Beaches Hospital was not safe for patients and junior doctors when it first opened.

Australian Salaried Medical Officers' Federation NSW president Antony Sara argues the hospital, which opened in November 2018, has made progress but it could take a year to get up to scratch.

His comments follow a report, made public on Tuesday, from the Health Education and Training Institute.

The report found the hospital opened without adequate planning or preparation and there were staffing issues weeks after it began receiving patients.
"It clearly was not a safe place to be for patients and junior doctors," Dr Sara told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday.

"You would not take anyone who is sick to that hospital."

A HETI review team visited the site on December 10 and found the situation at the hospital was unsustainable and "only working" because of the commitment by junior medical officers to provide service under "adverse conditions".

The report identified numerous issues including inadequate staffing levels, particularly after hours, and a lack of policies and protocols to support safe work practice.

However, a follow-up report found "significant progress" had been made by mid-January 2019, although there were still ongoing issues such as a "less than ideal" reliance on locum staff.

Dr Sara agreed the hospital has improved but wouldn't be drawn on its current safety for patients and junior doctors.

"We are withholding judgement ... but it's possible it is not at an optimum state of operation as yet," he said.

"It could be six to nine months or potentially a year. These things take time."

The $600 million public-private hospital came under scrutiny when it opened, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian at the time acknowledging "teething problems".

Labor NSW acting health spokesman Walt Secord said the reports showed the hospital has "lurched from crisis to crisis" since it opened its doors.

"Doctors say that patients' safety has been put at risk," Mr Secord told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday.

"We want that hospital fixed and up to speed."

Private operators Healthscope on Tuesday said an action plan was created to address the issues raised in the HETI reports.

Training and support for junior doctors had been boosted, staffing levels increased, systems streamlined and communication improved, a spokesman said in a statement.

A parliamentary inquiry was set up in June to examine the operation and management of the hospital.

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