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18 April, 2007

Chronically Ill Patients Don't Really Need Wesley Hospital Hydrotherapy Pool

A private hospital is a complicated beast - a lot like a hotel. People are checking in and out all the time. They need beds and food, car parking and clean laundry. The buildings need to be heated or cooled, cleaned and maintained. Stocks and equipment need to be bought and distributed, the grounds need to be maintained, services need to be advertised, payments need to be received and expenses accounted for, franchises need to be managed, and vehicles need to be bought and operated. It all takes a large staff and a lot of money. This in turn means a lot of managers up to their eyeballs in mundane trivia.

It is no wonder then that they sometimes lose sight of what they are there for and make mistakes. Take the Wesley Hospital in Brisbane. The management there came up with a strategy for redeveloping the hospital to meet future acute care demands but somehow completely forgot to include any chronic care in their plan. In particular, the new plan completely neglected the facft that they already ran the region's leading hydrotherapy pool, a first-class facility, with a first-class physiotherapy team, that has been serving chronically ill patients over a huge geographical area for almost two decades. The new plan would demolish this local centre of excellence and would not replace it, leaving hundreds and hundreds of patients without any form of treatment.

Oops.

You'd think that, faced with a planning catasrophe like this, the hospital management - or perhaps the Uniting Church, which owns it - would stop what they are doing and make a better plan. You'd be wrong. The hospital management, although embarrassed by the furore that has arisen, is pressing ahead with this terrible decision as fast as they can push it through. I've been trying to understand why this would be.

One obvious reqason is that the management cannot bear to admit they have made a very stupid mistake. Rather than say that their ineptitude is responsible for casting hundreds of extremely needy people to the wolves, they want to argue that they were right really and that a change of strategy (from caring for people to dumping them like garbage, it seems) is what the region needs. A less obvious reason but one which came out at a recent public information meeting (from which the management had excluded the press, by the way) is that the hospital general manager seems to believe that most of the patients who use the pool don't really need it. They just go there because they like to exercise in warm water, he told us. Of the several thousand people who use the pool each year, he believes that 'about a hundred' are really in need of it. The rest, I suppose, must be lying malingerers who have persuaded their gullible doctors and specialists into believing that their arthritis, or cerebral palsy, or knee operation, or loss of function following brain surgery, is far mor serious than it really is.

The general manager is not a medical man, nor has he even spent any time at the pool observing the treatments going on there. Yet he has this bizarre prejudice and no doubt it is behind his belief that it is alright to shut down this wonderful facility that has helped so many people.

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