Lismore's storm-damaged maternity unit may never reopen
THE temporary Lismore Base Hospital maternity ward, which was badly damaged when scaffolding pierced its roof last month, may not be repaired.
The building - called "the pod" by staff - services mothers and their babies after birth, but it will remain closed for the foreseeable future, a spokeswoman for NSW Infrastructure Health said.
The new maternity ward, part of the $260.25m Stage 3 redevelopment of the hospital, is scheduled for the end of 2017.
Until then, women and new babies may be stuck in the old and "inadequate" southern section of the Women's Care Unit.
"Insurance assessors are still working to finalise the extent of the damage and whether the building is able to be repaired. To date, no decision has been made," the spokeswoman said.
If deemed irreparable, the Women's Care Unit will have no choice but to continue caring for mothers and newborns in the Southern Wing.
With only 16 beds in close proximity, the southern section had no spare beds before Christmas, according to hospital staff.
"If it (the pod) can't be repaired, the local health district have temporary arrangements in place to deliver the required services," the spokeswoman said.
A NSW Health District spokesperson said this might include encouraging women who had normal births to return home only four hours after giving birth - part of the hospital's domiciliary midwife program.
The post-natal women would be followed up by community nursing services at home.
Other measures might involve relocating mums and babies to Casino or to other hospital wards.
NSW Health Infrastructure confirmed an inquiry would take place regarding the roof collapse.
"Investigations are taking place to determine the contributing factors in relation to the December 2015 incident," the spokeswoman said.
"Health Infrastructure does not want to pre-empt any outcome before the regulators have finalised their investigations."
This week, Lismore MP Thomas George inspected the newly-completed work on the Stage 3 redevelopment.
"Redevelopment remains on schedule," Mr George said.
"Health Infrastructure have advised me that Stage 3 works will be progressively delivered over the next few months, up until mid-2016."
Stage 3 of the redevelopment includes a new emergency department, new emergency medical unit, emergency care fast track facilities, expanded medical imaging capacity, and a new ambulance bay and drop-off.
It also includes a new renal dialysis unit and expansion space for the next stage of the redevelopment.
"Work will also continue throughout 2016 on further stages of the redevelopment," Mr George said.
"This stage will involve additional storeys being added to the southern tower, providing space for peri-operative, in-patient women's care and paediatric services."