Gladstone Hospital's outgoing director of surgery Dr Stefaan De Clercq.
Gladstone Hospital's outgoing director of surgery Dr Stefaan De Clercq.

Departing doctor wants politics out of healthcare

The outgoing director of surgery at Gladstone Hospital has welcomed a local MP's proposal for the state to buy the Mater hospital, but insists healthcare should not be dependent on political lobbying.

Dr Stefaan De Clercq said that if the Mater had already been purchased, he would have stayed in Gladstone to continue building the surgery department.

The hospital has been on the market since March 2019.

"Buying the Mater when it was available to purchase was a no-brainer," Dr De Clercq said.

"Healthcare shouldn't be dependent on elections - there should be a set environment for a certain number of people to get what they need."

In the lead-up to last year's federal election, Labor pledged $15 million to buy the Mater if elected.

The Liberal-National Coalition did not match the promise.

Earlier this week, Labor's Gladstone MP, Glenn Butcher, said discussions were being held on how the Mater hospital could be used to ­assist the region's response to Covid-19.

With the hospital estimated to cost up to $20 million, Mr Butcher said new health funding was available and part of it could be used for the purchase.

He said there had been negotiations between the State Government and the Mater over several months regarding the hospital's future.

He wrote to Health Minister Stephen Miles and Treasurer and Deputy Premier Jackie Trad this week to call on the government to buy the hospital.

If the hospital was state-owned, Mr Butcher said, it would be easier to use it as part of the Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service's Covid-19 response.

Once the virus threat was over, he said, the hospital could operate as a public and private facility in partnership with a private operator.

Dr De Clercq is an advocate for Level 4 hospitals in regional centres throughout Queensland.

He said higher-level surgeries could be centralised in Brisbane, but cities such as Gladstone should have access to a better standard than the current Level 3.

He said purchasing the Mater would deliver bigger operating theatres, about 40 more beds and the facilities to develop an ICU.

Dr De Clercq was disappointed it had taken a pandemic to strengthen the case for buying the hospital, but said the government's strict approach on social isolation seemed to be working.

"If you don't need to be in a social gathering stay away for a few weeks," he said.

"It won't harm anyone; it will also give people time to reflect and in the end it will prepare us for other pandemics for the future."

He said it was important to the learn lessons of the best approaches to healthcare and supporting workers affected by lockdown measure.

The timely closure of borders, restriction of travel and focus on social isolation were key to stemming the impact.

"This is a period we have to learn from," he said.



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