SPECULATION the future of Kurri Kurri Hospital is in jeopardy persists in the Hunter community, but health officials are adamant the facility will remain open.
A letter addressed to Cessnock MP Clayton Barr, which says it is from Kurri Kurri Hospital staff, claims the hospital is being targeted for closure in late 2021.
It raises concerns the operating and surgical units will close from Christmas, 2021, to be relocated to the new Maitland Hospital. It also claims there are plans to close Kurri Kurri's emergency department in June.
The Newcastle Herald has previously reported staff feared the Kurri Kurri Hospital Rehabilitation Unit would close in November, as the unit has been unable to accept new patients due to a lack of on-call after-hours medical support.
Concerned staff previously told The Herald there is only one patient currently admitted to the rehabilitation unit, and they had heard the facility would close unless a compromise was reached with doctors at Maitland Hospital to provide medical support after 4.30pm each day.
Mr Barr said the rumours and speculation surrounding the hospital's future had likely come from a "lack of communication" from health district executives.
"The workforce has seen dwindling numbers in rehab, they know there is no new patients coming in, they know there is no new patients being admitted, and as a consequence, they are frightened about a possible closure and possible job losses," he said.
The letter claims a Hunter rehabilitation specialist raised safety concerns about the after hours medical coverage at Kurri Kurri rehab in August, and ceased admitting patients to the unit until an alternative "model of care" was implemented.
Mr Barr understands an agreement is imminent. He said he knew many of the points outlined in the letter to be factual, but he would be very concerned if claims that Kurri Kurri Hospital is earmarked for closure are true.
"If there is any truth in it, I suspect we'll see significant unrest," he said. "It was built by coal miners, so it has always been felt by the community that it is their asset.
"That it belongs to them."
Karen Kelly, executive director of Greater Metropolitan Health Services, said Kurri Kurri Hospital was "not closing".
"Kurri Kurri Hospital plays an important part in our network of Hunter hospitals and that will continue," she said.
"The network is designed to ensure patients receive the best care in the right location. Maitland Hospital also plays an important role in the network. In some instances the people of Kurri Kurri already access services provided at Maitland Hospital, and will do so when the new hospital opens in 2022.
"We understand our staff have lots of questions and we will meet with Kurri Kurri Hospital employees early next week."
Ms Kelly said the rehabilitation unit at Kurri Kurri Hospital continued to operate, albeit at reduced capacity while they finalise after hours support.
"We are working hard to return the unit to full capacity as soon as possible," she said.
"The district is progressing recruitment for an additional GP VMO for Kurri Kurri Hospital. The district is also continuing to work with the Primary Health Network to identify suitably qualified local GPs who may be interested in participating in on-call rosters."
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