HUNTER New England Health has denied it has plans to close the Kurri Kurri Hospital Rehabilitation Unit, but concerned staff believe it will close by November 10.
Staff have said the rehabilitation unit has been unable to accept new patients, such as those recovering from stroke, due to the lack of medical support available at the centre after 4.30pm.
They said they had been led to believe the facility could close as early as this week, now that doctors at Maitland Hospital were no longer offering after-hours support.
But they had since been told that once the facility's final patient is released by November 10, permanent staff and some patients would be transferred to the old Kurri Kurri Hospital Medical Unit, which is serviced only by on-call local GPs.
"I don't know what is going to happen to all these patients that were coming here for rehabilitation, especially the stroke patients, because that service will be sorely missed," a staff member said.
Karen Kelly, executive director of Greater Metropolitan Health Services, said there were "no plans" to close the rehabilitation unit, or for it to be absorbed into another unit.
"The unit continues to operate, and is fully staffed during the day including a specialist rehabilitation doctor. We are also working to develop a sustainable and comprehensive medical coverage model for after-hours," she said. "In the meantime, we have a temporary approach in place where patients with lower care needs can continue to receive care in the unit, while more complex patients with higher care needs can be cared for in the Kurri Kurri Hospital Medical Unit or at Maitland or Cessnock Hospital.
"Once the after-hours solution is in place, the unit will provide rehabilitation care for both low and high acuity patients."
NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association's Judith Kiejda said they were aware of concerns about the future of the unit at Kurri Kurri. They were seeking "urgent consultations" with the local health district, as changes to the delivery of services needed "proper consultation" with the broader impacts on the community considered.
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