Tamworth Base Hospital Accident and Emergency Department
Mr PETER DRAPER: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Health. Can the Minister provide the House with details on how Tamworth Base Hospital accident and emergency staff managed the emergency retrieval of numerous victims involved in the collision between a car and a train at Baan Baa in the north-west of New South Wales?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Baulkham Hills to order. I call the honourable member for Upper Hunter to order. I call the honourable member for Fairfield to order for the second time.
Mr MORRIS IEMMA: This gives me an opportunity to outline the highly professional lifesaving work that doctors, nurses and retrieval services completed last night following a horrific accident in the State's north-west. I would have thought that the matter would receive encouragement and support from the Opposition rather than condemnation. Yesterday evening a car collided with a train near Baan Baa, a small community located between Boggabri and Narrabri. I am sure that all members will join with me in offering condolences to the family of the elderly lady who was killed in the incident and to those who are recovering after the ordeal. I am advised that the accident occurred when a CountryLink Xplorer train was travelling north and struck a motor vehicle at a level crossing. I am advised that the first carriage was derailed and the impact caused several passengers to be trapped. The New England Area Health Service disaster management control plan was immediately called into action. The New England Area Health Service retrieval team was led by emergency physician Dr Chris Trethewy, who attended the scene, and travelled by ambulance from Tamworth to Baan Baa.
Patients were assessed at the site of the accident by experienced ambulance officers and an emergency physician from Tamworth Base Hospital. Four accident victims were transferred to Tamworth Base Hospital emergency department, two by road ambulance and two by air ambulance. I am pleased to advise the House that ambulances were first on the scene, travelling from Boggabri within only 16 minutes from the time of the call out. Many patients sustained minor injuries and shock, and were taken to the Baan Baa community hall, where a primary care centre was established. Thirty of the train passengers were transferred to the hall for triage by highly experienced ambulance staff.
Injuries included a dislocated shoulder, lacerations to the head and body of several patients, upper body bruising and shock. All of our health professionals undergo specific training for major incidents such as this. Fortunately, these skills are rarely called upon. However, on this occasion the disaster co-ordinator quickly assessed the situation. The team worked closely with the Ambulance Service, effectively co-ordinating local State Emergency Service staff, ambulance, air and road retrieval services. They worked with police to control the scene and liaised efficiently with local hospitals, with a temporary care centre at the local Baan Baa community hall.
In addition to this excellent work by the medical retrieval and emergency management team, Tamworth Base Hospital has one of the best emergency department waiting times in New South Wales. Even throughout the month of January, when the country music festival took place and more than 3,300 patients visited the new $3.7 million emergency department, average waiting times were just 27 minutes. Last month the Premier visited Tamworth Base Hospital and saw first-hand the tremendous work under way in the New England Area Health Service and at Tamworth Base Hospital, where waiting times for elective surgery are now at record lows. The number of patients waiting for elective surgery at Tamworth has been cut by 17 per cent.
New England Area Health Service is on target to have no patient waiting longer than 12 months for elective surgery by June this year. This is a result of the joint commitment and hard work of doctors, nurses and management at the New England Area Health Service and specifically at Tamworth hospital. This, along with the Government's ongoing commitment to back those hardworking nurses, doctors, health care professionals and administrators in that regional area health service, as well as the others across the State, is proving the results. In addition to the $1.5 million share of the $50 million recently announced in the mini-budget, the area health service will also receive $393,000 for 71 additional elective surgery procedures. That allocation was made in January. The efforts of the medical retrieval experts, the emergency physicians, the ambulance officers and the staff at Tamworth Base Hospital in relation to the accident last night prove that Tamworth Base Hospital is one of the best hospitals in the State.