$30 million: Estimated budget cut at Prince of Wales Hospital. Photo: Nicolas WalkerDoctors have warned that Prince of Wales Hospital is facing an unprecedented reduction in services to meet a 10 per cent budget cut, estimated to be about $30 million.
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An internal hospital email obtained by Fairfax Media reveals that an amalgamation of cancer departments would be accompanied by a $300,000 cut to the cancer unit budget. It said the stroke unit will also be ”dismantled”.

The email says at least 11 nursing positions would be lost and senior doctors have also been asked to reduce staffing levels. The cancer unit is considering no longer seeing patients from outside the area to reduce their patient load.

Professor James Colebatch, the chairman of the hospital’s medical staff council, said the changes were part of a $30 million budget cut for the Randwick hospital.

”We’ve never been in a position before where we have had to close services. That is unprecedented.”

Hospital director of operations Jon Roberts said the budget would not be finalised until August.

”However, it is clear the hospital needs to reduce its costs to ensure the cost structure of the hospital is more in line with its peer hospitals.”

Mr Roberts said he has asked all units in the hospital to review costs and identify potential savings. A range of strategies are being identified to improve efficiency, but Mr Roberts said the hospital ”has no plans to reduce patient access to cancer services”.

Health Minister Jillian Skinner said frontline services ”are going up, not down” and Prince of Wales Hospital would receive an increased budget this financial year. ” [It] will undertake more activity than any previous year,” she said.

The internal email said the cancer program has to ”somehow fit” patient demand for 27 beds into 20 beds which would result in cancer patients being distributed to other hospital wards.

Professor Colebatch said the hospital’s stroke unit was being relocated, but said it was too early to tell how this might affect patients. ”All the medical staff are aware demand on our services are increasing, but we are being told we must limit the amount we provide.”

Professor Colebatch said departments including the cancer unit were considering limiting patient access to people from the local area.

The president of the Australian Medical Association NSW branch, Brian Owler, said patients in the south east ”need to be very concerned about the sorts of cuts being made because these cuts are clearly cuts to frontline medical services”.

”Despite reassurances from the government, it appears these are the sorts of cuts being instituted at Prince of Wales.”

Opposition health spokesman Andrew McDonald said Prince of Wales Hospital ”is struggling”.

”For a major university teaching hospital to consider denying care to patients referred to it simply because of their postcode just shows how desperate they have become,” he said.

A medical staff member who did not want their name published said the budget cuts would affect a range of services, but cancer services would ”bear a significant part of the cuts”.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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