Paul, forced to walk home from hospital at 2am, told it won’t happen again

Step 4 - chest pains at Glebe Lagoon. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Paul had to stop after chest pains returned near Glebe Lagoon in Bega. Photo: Ian Campbell.

A Bega man who was told to walk home from South East Regional Hospital (SERH) at 2am says his confidence in the local health service has improved.

Paul’s outrageous story drew a strong response from the About Regional community when it was first published in late November.

He had already made an official complaint about his shoddy treatment but was yet to receive an explanation or apology. In the days that followed the publication of Paul’s story, he was invited to a meeting with new hospital chief, Wendy Hubbard.

“She apologised for what had happened and told me new systems were in place to stop it happening again,” Paul says.

Paul is not his real name. In sharing his story Paul didn’t want to embarrass friends and clients that work at the new facility and asked to remain anonymous. He did however want to see change and a better standard of care for the community that has been his home for 20 years.

It seems he has achieved that.

It opens Friday, December 15, the Carers and Relatives Accommodation at South East Regional Hospital in Bega. Photo: Ian Campbell
It opens Friday, December 15, the Carers and Relatives Accommodation at South East Regional Hospital in Bega. Photo: Ian Campbell

Paul’s story starts with chest pains after dinner one Sunday evening in early September, after a day of feeling funny he and his partner called for an ambulance.

After five hours in care, Paul was told he hadn’t had a heart attack but was suffering from angina. By that stage, the hospital clock was saying 1:30 am and with a diagnosis in hand, Paul was advised to see his GP as soon as possible.

“They [then] gave me a blanket and said I’d have to walk home,” Paul explains.

Paul arrived at the hospital with his partner five hours earlier via ambulance, they had no car, no way of getting home.

“We have lots of friends, but it was two o’clock in the morning, we didn’t want to impose on people,” he says.

No other option was offered – no bed, no ride home, just a blanket to guard against the early spring chill.

“I did say – I can’t walk home with angina,” Paul says.

During the four-kilometre walk home, Paul had to stop on the path at Glebe Lagoon when the chest pains returned.

Thankfully he made it home and was able to see his doctor on the Wednesday.

South East Regional Hospital
South East Regional Hospital. Photo: SNSWLHD

When I initially published Paul’s story the Health Service pointed to the lack of a taxi service in Bega as being the issue.

“The problem is not that the hospital doesn’t provide transport, but rather that there is only one taxi in Bega and they won’t provide service after hours,” the NSW Health Transport Travel Support Group said.

While accepting that transport is an issue across South East NSW, the community reaction to Paul’s story and the heartless government response has prompted a rethink from the Health Service, with many people reporting similar tales of being stranded by a system that seemed to not care or understand life in a country setting.

In a subsequent statement to About Regional, a spokesperson for Southern NSW Local Health District confirmed that in the future patients will be offered an overnight stay in the hospital to help manage transport issues.

“To avoid similar incidents arising in the future Emergency Department (ED) staff will be able to raise potential patient transport issues with the After Hours Nurse Manager,” a Health spokesperson said.

“[Staff] will talk to the patient and consider any options, including an offer to stay overnight.”

Furthermore, the spokesperson said, “On December 15 the SERH on-site Carers and Relatives Accommodation will be opened, which will provide a further option for people in a similar situation.”

Paul says he feels vindicated and trusts that this won’t happen again.

“I appreciated the apology Wendy offered and I got a sense she is working to make things better,” Paul says.

“It seems there was a lack of understanding by agency and locum staff on duty the night I arrived.”

Under new District Cheif Executive, Andrew Newton further operational and cultural changes have been flagged inline with the review initiated by the NSW Health Minister.

Confidence in the sparkling new facility and some of its staff has been shattered on the back of a raft of issues since the hospitals opening in early 2016.

A few finishing touches before Friday's grand opening of the Careers and Relatives Accommodation. Photo: Ian Campbell
A few finishing touches before Friday’s grand opening of the Careers and Relatives Accommodation. Photo: Ian Campbell

The Carers Accommodation that opens on Friday is perhaps an opportunity to reinvigorate people’s trust.

Like so many things, the construction of this building has been driven by community fundraising coordinated by Bega Valley service clubs but embraced by people and organistaions around South East NSW, as well as State and Federal Governments and big business.

An 18-bed facility for carers is the full vision, six motel style rooms with their own ensuite will open on Friday representing stages one and two.

The community is invited to look through the new building between 2 and 5pm.

Paul is not surprised that the community has stepped up the way it has around his story or how it has rallied around the need to build carers and relative accommodation for a hospital that services communities from Batemans Bay to Jindabyne to Mallacoota.

He hangs on to the blanket he was given on that cold September night as a reminder that systems and bureaucracy are meant to serve people.

*About Regional content happens because of the financial contributions of members, thank you to Snowy Monaro Regional Council, Geoff Berry, Tania Ward, Jill Howell and Max Wilson, Ingrid Mitchell and Deb Nave, Therese and Denis Wheatley, Bronnie Taylor, Fiona Firth, and Scott Halfpenny.

Lifeguards on Tathra Beach this February need your financial support

Tony McCabe & Kiama Thatcher from the Australian Lifeguard Service patrolling Tathra Beach in 2016. Photo Sarah Chenhall, Sapphire Coast Tourism.
Tony McCabe & Kiama Thatcher from the Australian Lifeguard Service patrolling Tathra Beach in 2016. Photo Sarah Chenhall, Sapphire Coast Tourism.

For the last 3 summers, businesses in Tathra and Bega have worked together to fund a beach safety program that has kept the famous red and yellow flags flying on Tathra Beach during February.

Our golden strip of sand has been the only beach south of Ulladulla with a 7-day-a-week lifeguard service during the final month of summer.

To build on the reputation Tathra has with grey nomads and young families at this magic time of year, the Tathra and District Business Chamber is once again seeking financial support from local businesses and organisations to keep the flags flying in 2018.

“February is a big month in Tathra, many young families and retirees are attracted to our beautiful beach after the busy school holiday period,” Chamber Vice President, Rob White says.

“The feedback from holidaymakers is always terrific, it’s clear that people come to Tathra during February because they know our beach is patrolled, this extends our summer and gives Tathra a point of difference,” Rob says.

Locals know that February is the best time of year on our beaches, daily temperatures are similar to January, but the water is warmer and the winds lighter.

Lifeguards employed by Bega Valley Shire Council keep watch over beach goers Monday to Friday during the summer school holidays, complimenting the outstanding volunteer effort each weekend from Tathra Surf Life Saving Club.

“But once school goes back after Australia Day the Council service stops, leaving visitors to our town and members of our community at risk,” Rob says.

“Council considered working with us to extend their service into February to take the pressure off the community fundraising effort, but we have been told they don’t have the budget.”

The Chamber is now hoping to raise the $13,000 needed to keep professional life guards on Tathra Beach, Monday to Friday from January 29 until February 23.

Secretary of the Chamber, Carmen Risby says the results speak for themselves.

“The extended beach patrols on Tathra Beach during February last year meant that lifeguards were on hand to perform 14 rescues,” Carman says.

“Our stats show that lifeguards kept watch over approximately 6200 people on Tathra Beach during weekdays last February.”

Businesses who take part will receive significant media exposure, and generate tremendous goodwill within the local community.

Thank you to the businesses who have already made a commitment – Tathra Big4, Tathra Beachside, Tathra & District Business Chamber, Tathra Beach House, Tathra Beach Bowling Club, Bendigo Bank, and Tathra Hotel. More are needed to keep the flags flying.

Please contact Rob White at Tathra Beach House Apartments for further information on becoming a business or organisation sponsor – rob@tathrabeachhouse.com.au or phone 6499 9900.

 

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About Regional Pop-Up Newsroom – what a great day in Bermagui!

The first About Regional Pop-Up Newsroom landed in Bermagui this week, based out of Julie Rutherford Real Estate we uncovered some of the untold stories of this town.

Kelly Eastwood from River Cottage Australia dropped in to share her plans for a deli and cooking school…

The About Regional Pop-Up Newsroom is in #Bermagui upstairs at the harbour at Julie Rutherford Real Estate.This time chatting to Kelly Eastwood about her new deli and cooking school.Drop by with your story between now and 2pm.CheersIan

Posted by About Regional on Tuesday, 5 December 2017

 

Longtime Bermagui fisherman Allan Broadhurst talked about his life on the ocean…

Can't come to #Bermagui and not talk to a real fisherman! Here's one – Allan Broadhurst.The About Regional Pop-Up Newsroom at Julie Rutherford Real Estate.Drop by with your story before 2pm.Thanks for tuning in.Ian

Posted by About Regional on Tuesday, 5 December 2017

 

The team at Marine Rescue Bermagui reinforced my longheld view that “the hills around here” hide some interesting people…

The About Regional Pop-Up Newsroom moves to Marine Rescue Bermagui, chatting to Alec and Richard.What's your story? Drop by Julie Rutherford Real Estate before 2!Thanks for tuning in.Ian

Posted by About Regional on Tuesday, 5 December 2017

 

And then there’s Bruce Frost, a life of volunteering, beekeeping and managing MS, one of the region’s great men…

The About Regional Pop-Up Newsroom is at Julie Rutherford Real Estate, upstairs at #Bermagui Harbour until 2ish. Drop by and share your story.Chatting to Bruce Frost right now talking volunteering, beekeeping, life with MS, and who knows!Thanks for tuning in.Ian

Posted by About Regional on Tuesday, 5 December 2017

 

What a great day! The About Regional Pop-Up Newsroom will happen again in 2018, somewhere in South East NSW.

Cheers

Ian

Meet 2EC’s new radio presenter – a painter from Bega, John Watkin

John Watkin learning the ropes with Kim Saker in 2EC's Bega studio. Photo: Ian Campbell.
John Watkin learning the ropes with Kim Saker in 2EC’s Bega studio. Photo: Ian Campbell.

One of the best blokes in Bega has just landed his dream job, four decades after he first had a crack.

John Watkin has been in the paint business for close to 40 years, but as a teen, he applied for radio school with the ambition of working on the wireless.

“Radio was my childhood dream and I got rejected,” John remembers.

“This was back in the day when youth unemployment was 30%, jobs were really hard to come by, you had to get a job wherever you could, which is how I ended up in the family business.”

John grabbed the opportunity with both hands, working with his father to build a business that is now one of the pillars of town – Inspirations Paint.

But from Monday, John’s radio dream becomes a reality as the new Morning presenter for East Coast Radio 2EC.

Program Director and 2EC Breakfast presenter, Kim Saker says giving John the job feels right despite his lack of professional radio experience.

“He and I had talked about the idea over a couple of scotches in years gone by,” Kim laughs.

Keen to bring stability to her station when yet another vacancy opened Kim pitched the 50 something painter to the powers that be.

“He doesn’t have the radio skills as such, but he’s got the personality, he’s got the stability, he’s got the maturity, and he’s got the passion – everything else you can teach,” Kim says.

John’s appointment comes at a time when regional media is under pressure and in many country radio stations local content has been replaced by networked programs from the nearest capital city.

Kim says it was localism that sealed the deal.

“The directors of Grant Broadcasters, who own 2EC have the technology to do hubbing, but they believe in keeping it local wherever they can,” she says.

During his years running the paint business and raising three kids with his wife of 30 years Sharon, John has fed his radio dream with a regular painting and decorating segment in Kim’s breakfast program.

“And for the last 10 years when we have our radiothon weekend, John comes into the studio and he and I pretty much spend the whole weekend on air together,” Kim says.

Learning how to drive the radio studio has been the focus for John over the last few weeks of training, getting to know the equipment, being able to respond to a live radio program, and above all getting comfortable in what many people see as an intimidating environment.

Listeners to Kim’s breakfast program might not have realised that on some mornings recently, John has been “paneling” – pressing all the buttons while Kim kept her gums flapping – as only she can!

From Monday (December 4) he’ll need to do it all himself (as country radio presenters do) during his own program.

This boy from Bega who grew up listening to 2EC or 2BE as it used to be known, says it’s been a nerve-racking experience.

“I’ve been self-employed for the last 27 years, this is out of my comfort zone,” John says.

2EC Breakfast presenter and Program Director Kim Saker with new Mornings presenter John Watkin. Photo: Ian Campbell
2EC Breakfast presenter and Program Director Kim Saker with new Mornings presenter John Watkin. Photo: Ian Campbell

Locals will be familiar with John’s community work through the Bega Chamber of Commerce, Legacy, Anzac and Remembrance Day, Bega Hospital, and more, it’s something he is keen to bring to his new role.

“For me, radio is part of the local community, it’s a connection point, it’s a conduit for the community to share what’s going on,” John says.

“When it comes to fires and floods that’s where radio really steps up, you can get instant news to people.”

John will be on air between 9 and 12 weekdays, treading lightly at first while he gets his bearings, but his plan is to include interviews and discussion in amongst the music that 2EC is known for.

“My day is about connecting with this community, I’ll be talking about what’s happening and how that impacts on our local area,” John says.

The career change is a significant shift in the operations of the paint business John and Sharon continue to run.

“My wife is still not talking to me,” John laughs.

“Sharon is very supportive, she knows I’ve had a passion for radio since before I had a passion for her.

“And the kids think it’s fantastic, they keep hassling me. My daughter has just moved to London and she can’t wait to live-stream me.”

As a 30 year veteran of the industry, Kim Saker says it’s a really nice feeling to make someones radio dream come true.

“My passion for radio started when I was 11, I couldn’t imagine waiting as long as John has,” she says.

“For John to be living the dream now is awesome for me.”

Radio needs real people, country towns need radio, and John Watkin is a welcome addition to the ranks.

*About Regional content is backed by members, including – Kylie Dummer, Kaye Johnston, Geoffrey Grigg,
Robyn Kesby, Amanda Fowler, Sue and Duncan Mackinnon, Geoff Berry, Tania Ward, the Bega Valley Regional Learning Centre, and Four Winds at Bermagui.

Bega Valley Meals on Wheels takes part in international celebration

Volunteers Pancho Horne, Sue Ranyard, Orna Marks, Jeanette McCann, Sue Middleton and Julie Hennessey. Photo: Supplied
Volunteers Pancho Horne, Sue Ranyard, Orna Marks, Jeanette McCann, Sue Middleton and Julie Hennessey. Photo: Supplied

The significant contribution volunteers make to Bega Valley Meals on Wheels will be celebrated this
Tuesday, December 5 – International Volunteers Day.

The day was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1985, and gives organisations like Bega Valley Meals on Wheels an opportunity to raise awareness of the contribution volunteers make to the life and economy of the local area.

David Atkins, Manager, Bega Valley Meals on Wheels says, “Tuesday’s celebration in Bega will be part of a worldwide network of events all geared towards saluting and thanking volunteers.”

“There is also an opportunity for people who might be interested in volunteering to find out more about it.”

Bega Valley Meals on Wheels relies on around 150 volunteer hours each week, with 200 extraordinary people from across the shire covering a range of roles.

“These people are the lifeblood of our organisation and are the reason we are able to provide an affordable, caring service to people in need across our community,” Mr Atkins says.

“Meals on Wheels is famous for food, but that knock on the door means so much more to the people opening the door and the people making the delivery.”

Volunteers Howard and Mei Hill of Eden and Len and Anne Slater of Wolumla. Photo: Supplied.
Volunteers Howard and Mei Hill of Eden and Len and Anne Slater of Wolumla. Photo: Supplied.

For over 60 years, Meals on Wheels has built a sense of community and resilience through the simple act of a delivered meal.

Better health and nutrition is the obvious benefit, but Bega Valley Meals on Meals volunteers also check on safety and well-being. A greater sense of social cohesiveness flows, reducing isolation and supporting independence and choice.

“While acknowledging the work of our current volunteers, we need new people to step forward and help,” Mr Atkins says.

“The commitment is manageable, shared, and flexible and comes with ongoing support and training, but most of all it comes with a huge sense of pride.”

The community is invited to join the celebration of International Volunteers Day at Toussaint’s Café, at the Bega Valley Meals on Wheels Centre on Bega Street, Bega. A BBQ lunch will be served from 12pm, on Tuesday December 5, everyone is welcome.

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“Pack the Pool” floats 50 metre option for Batemans Bay

The option adopted by Eurobodalla Shire Council at their August 29 meeting. Photo
The option adopted by Eurobodalla Shire Council for the Mackay Park, Bay Pool, Old Bowlo site. Photo: ESC

Batemans Bay locals have laid claim to the town’s 50-metre swimming pool.

The future of the aging facility on the Princes Highway south of the Batemans Bay bridge has been a sore point since late August when Eurobodalla Shire Council adopted a draft concept plan for a new 25-metre, year-round, enclosed aquatic centre.

Aside from a 25-metre, eight-lane pool with ramp access, the full vision for the proposed aquatic centre includes a separate 10m warm-water therapy pool and spa, a freeform indoor leisure pool, that includes learn-to-swim and toddler areas, water-play splash pad, waterslides, gym, group fitness and wellness area.

The pool plan is coupled with a new 500 seat performance and cultural space taking in the current pool site, part of bigger plans that take in the old Batemans Bay Bowling Club site and Mackay Park next door.

Both facilities would boast shared amenities, including a foyer, café, visitor information service and associated retail space, administration offices, as well as plant and support services.

Council is looking to take advantage of a ‘pot of gold’ on offer from the NSW and Australian Governments to turn the $46 million vision into a reality.

Around 120 people turned out over the weekend for the “Pack the Pool’ event, disappointed the draft concept plan adopted by Council doesn’t include a new or refurbished 50-metre pool.

https://www.facebook.com/fightforthe50/videos/168035247122884/

 

One of the organisers, Maureen Searson believes the decision is backward.

“We’ve already got the 50-metres which is catering to an existing group of swimmers,” Ms Searson says.

“It comes down to this idea of community, and bringing the community together, it makes no sense that Council would not build something for the whole community.”

According to the business case developed by planning consultants Otium, a 50-metre pool will cost approximately $6 million more to build and up to $300,000 a year more to operate – in comparison to a 25-metre facility.

Otium pointed to a “limited local market for a 50-metre pool” and suggested stronger demand for a recreation and program/therapy pool space, given the shire’s older and aging population and appeal to the family tourist market.

Ms Searson disagrees suggesting that an indoor 50-metre facility will be a drawcard for visiting representative squads and rebuild a competitive swimming club in the town.

“Families are traveling to Ulladulla for training at the moment because Council has allowed the Bay pool to deteriorate,” Ms Searson suggests.

At the Council meeting of August 29, Mayor Liz Innes rounded out a discussion on the length of the pool by saying, “Ultimately, we will only build what we can afford to maintain.”

To date, Council has ruled out a rate increase to cover the project.

The idea of an indoor, year-round, heated pool has been the long-held dream of the Batemans Bay Indoor Aquatic Centre Committee. Carolyn Harding is one of those who have been selling raffle tickets for the last 20 years raising funds, “The committee would like to see a 50-metre pool included in the new facility, however, if it is not affordable we will accept a 25-metre pool as long as the rest of the plan is retained,” she says.

“Rather than miss out [on the government funding] and be disadvantaged by that, we are happy to see the 25-metre pool funded along with everything else,” Ms Harding says.

As President of the Aquatic Centre Committee, Ms Harding attended “Pack the Pool” on Saturday.

“I think there are a lot of people who are not fully informed as to what the indoor aquatic centre is all about,” she says.

A closer look at the concept plan for a new aquatic centre at Batemans Bay. Photo: ESC
A closer look at the concept plan for a new aquatic centre at Batemans Bay. Photo: ESC

Earlier this month, Cr Innes called for unity around the idea.

“Arguing over detail and process at this point is only detracting from our goal, which is to achieve government funding to build the facility.”

“First we need to show the NSW and Australian Governments that we have a concept that is excellent and affordable. And we do,” she said.

“Let’s get the facility funded, then we can really start to drill down into the details.”

Simply getting a draft proposal in front of the NSW Government for consideration in this round of the Regional Cultural Fund and the Regional Sports and Infrastructure Fund seems to have been a driver, with speculation that the fund is already oversubscribed and might not advance to a second round.

Council’s across NSW are pitching the dreams of their various communities to Macquarie Street for funding, and everyone wanted to make sure they were there in the first round.

One of the NSW Government’s key selection criteria in considering applications is affordability and viability, a 25-metre pool seems to tick that box in the Eurobodalla’s case.

When asked about the possibility of a 50-metre pool, the State Member for Bega, Andrew Constance told Fairfax there would be no issues with altering the design if affordable.

“Ultimately, running costs will have to be evaluated against other interests in the shire,” he said.

Council says a 50-metre pool was presented as an option, however, “Given the additional construction and operational cost of a 50-metre pool, it is likely that the warm-water program pool or the learn-to-swim area would need to be sacrificed if a 50-metre pool was included,” Council’s website says.

“To include a 50-metre pool would have also weakened our business case, undermining the strength of our grant application and the likelihood of securing the NSW Government grant funds,” Council says.

Around 120 people turned out for Pack the Pool on Saturday. Photo: Facebook
Around 120 people turned out for Pack the Pool on Saturday. Photo: Facebook

Maureen Searson’s group, “Fight for Batemans Bay’s 50m Pool” doesn’t accept that a 50-metre pool is still an option given that Council has already adopted the 25-metre option.

The group is hoping to address Council tomorrow (November 28) suggesting that the figures Council is using to argue for a 25-metre pool are wrong.

“One of our supporters, Jeff de Jager has raised questions about the audited financial statements that suggest the total maintenance costs for all three of council’s swimming pools was $229,000 for the year,” Ms Searson says.

“The report also says the gross replacement cost for three pools is $5,134,000.

“We are keen for Council to explain how it is then that a new 50-metre pool would cost an extra $6 million in building costs compared to a 25-metre pool and an extra $300,000 for maintenance annually,” Ms Searson says. *See response that followed from Council below.

News about the dollars flowing from the Cultural Fund could come this week at the Artstate conference in Lismore, shortlisted applicants will be asked to provide further project details in early 2018.

Council’s application for additional funding from the Federal Government’s “Building Better Regions Fund” is being finalised now for submission before December 9.

*About Regional content is funded by members, thank you to 2pi Software, Tathra Beach House Apartments, Kelly Murray, Gabrielle Powell, Tim Holt, Robyn Amair, Wendy and Pete Gorton, Shan Watts, and Doug Reckord.

The medicine of music on the streets of Cooma – the Australian National Busking Championships

Sharon White, “Music is healing.” Photo: Ian Campbell.
Sharon White, “Music is healing.” Photo: Ian Campbell.

The recent Australian National Busking Championships were more than a tourism and commerce promo for the Monaro.

Sure, the tills were ringing, but for those who stopped to listen and watch the 180-odd performers dotted around Cooma’s CBD, something more valuable was at play – the joy and medicine of music.

Despite the grandiose name, this year was the first time the Championships were a truly national affair.

Throughout 2017, Rotary Clubs along the East Coast staged their own regional heats, culminating in a Cooma showdown on the first weekend in November.

The best buskers from Noosa, Stanthorpe, Ballarat, Wangaratta, Narooma, and Berry competed across a range of categories.

The top prize of $2000 went to Ballarat’s one-man band, Geoffrey Williams. The Rhythm Hunters from Narooma Primary School won the crowd vote and $1000 – their drums and spunk were hard to walk past.

Cooma music teacher Allan Spencer and his comrades from Cooma Rotary got the momentum rolling and are rightly proud of their ‘baby’ six years after it started as a Cooma only event.

“Yeah we’ve got some wonderful stories,” Allan says.

“There’s Canberra’s Guyy Lilleyman, who won in 2013 and 2014, and on the strength of 2013, he was picked up by an agent and he had a tour of South Africa.

“He went on to complete a 10-week tour of Afghanistan, entertaining Australian and NATO troops,” he says.

There is an art to pulling a crowd on a busy street of passers-by who are perhaps more intent on getting the day’s groceries than stopping to listen to some tunes.

Being cute, loud, and colourful is worthy and part of the festival’s appeal but what unfolds in Cooma is a genuine celebration of music and those who share it with us.

#Narooma Rhythm Hunters from Narooma Primary School, contenders at the Australian National Busking Championships in #Cooma.Ian

Posted by About Regional on Friday, 3 November 2017

 

Sharon White, a singer-songwriter from Sydney, remembers coming to Cooma as a kid on holidays.

Her powerful voice sitting on a milk crate in front of the fish and chips shop on Sharp Street called me over from the big trees of Centennial Park.

Stopping to listen I realised there was more to this little lady with a cane.

The lyrics she sings speak of love, loss, hurt, recovery, and release.

“She’s got a story to tell,” the couple next to me says to each other.

Sharon didn’t win any of the awards that day – the fact that she is alive seems to be Sharon’s prize.

“I write all my own songs, and events like this are good for original material,” Sharon says.

“There are a few people here playing covers, and they’ll probably get the people in, but my stuff is personal.”

Sharon White, “I am already a winner.” Photo: Ian Campbell.
Sharon White, “I am already a winner.” Photo: Ian Campbell.

Sharon says she comes from a musical family.

“My great-grandmother was Sydney’s second-best opera singer,” she says.

“I’ve got her voice.”

Dame Nellie Melba was the only voice better than her great-grandmothers according to Sharon.

“I just do what I do because I love it,” Sharon smiles.

“I write about life experiences, everything that happens in my life, I’ll probably write a song about talking to you!”

At the suggestion that music might have a healing effect in her life, Sharon pulls a pink, polished gemstone from her pocket with the word ‘healing’ engraved across its surface. A lucky stone that pushes her on.

“I lost my brother and I sort of lost myself for a little while, I was messed up, too much alcohol,” Sharon starts to explain.

“And my son said to me one day – if I lose you, I’ll have no one, so I said okay, I’ll fix myself up.”

The song “I am Gonna Fly” from Sharon’s homemade album “The Naked Truth” was born of that time.

“I sing that song now with a smile because it’s now a recovery song, it gives me strength and I think of my son and brother,” Sharon says.

“It makes me go on.”

The walking stick that helps Sharon cart her amp and guitar around Cooma’s CBD is a reminder of a car accident that almost claimed Sharon’s life, another time when music played its healing tune.

“I don’t even know it [music]’s there, I just do this,” Sharon says.

“I come up with songs all the time, it feels good to create something that wasn’t there before.”

Another song “I am Going to Nashville” points to where Sharon hopes her music and a few coins in her guitar case will take her one day.

“In Sydney, I can make about $300 in three hours,” she says.

While it was a fella from Ballarat and a bunch of kids from Narooma that claimed the big prizes at the Australian National Busking Championships, Sharon says the festival has been a great opportunity to share her music.

“It doesn’t matter if I win or lose, I’ve already won – I have my life and I have my songs,” Sharon says.

Sharon has auditioned for the upcoming season of the TV talent show “The Voice”, she’s waiting to hear if she has made it through to the next round.

Cooma will be cheering you on Sharon!

*This article was originally published to Riot ACT

Bega man told to walk home from hospital at 2am after arriving with chest pains

South East Regional Hospital
South East Regional Hospital. Photo: SNSWLHD

Much has been said and written about the South East Regional Hospital in 2017 – most of it negative.

And as someone that purports to tell the stories of South East NSW, I haven’t always been sure of how to respond to the growing community concerns around services.

Politics, self-interest, and my own shortcomings have at times muddied the waters for me, and been a handbrake on About Regional coverage. And I didn’t want to add to the avalanche of “hospital bashing” stories.

Paul’s story has changed that, it’s a no bullshit experience that goes to the heart of what a hospital is supposed to provide – care and compassion.

Paul is not his real name. In telling his story Paul doesn’t want to embarrass friends and clients that work at the new facility and has asked to remain anonymous. But he does want change and does want better for the community he has made his home.

Step 1 for Paul. Photo: Ian Campbell
Step 1 for Paul. Photo: Ian Campbell

Paul is a long time Bega Valley resident, “It’ll be 20 years in February,” he says.

A Victorian by birth, Paul says he followed his dad to Merimbula for a holiday and stayed.

He’s in a longterm relationship, in his fifties and runs his own business.

In early September on a Sunday evening, Paul and his partner called an ambulance to their Bega home.

Paul was having chest pains, “I’d had a few incidents that day, but after dinner, it got worse and worse,” he says.

Sitting in his kitchen with spag bol bubbling in the background, Paul recounts the experience telling me he couldn’t breathe and that the pain got “pretty bad”.

Step 2. Photo: Ian Campbell
Step 2. Photo: Ian Campbell

“They kept me in hospital for five hours, did blood tests and told me that I didn’t have a heart attack, [they told me] we think you’ve got angina,” Paul says.

The clock had moved around to 1:30 am by this stage and with a diagnosis in hand, Paul was advised to see his  GP during the week.

“They [then] gave me a blanket and said I’d have to walk home,” Paul explains.

Step 3, "If they are going to make people walk home, they should have a footpath all the way." Photo: Ian Campbell
Step 3, “If they are going to make people walk home, they should have a footpath all the way.” Photo: Ian Campbell

Paul arrived at the hospital with his partner five hours earlier via ambulance, they had no car, no way of getting home.

“We have lots of friends, but it was two o’clock in the morning, we didn’t want to impose on people,” he says.

“They [hospital satff] didn’t give me any other option but to walk home.”

No bed was offered, no ride home, just a blanket to guard against the early spring chill.

“I did say – I can’t walk home with angina,” Paul says.

None the less Paul and his partner were tossed out to walk the four and bit kilometres home to the Bega CBD.

“It was a bit scary because I got the pain back when we got down to Glebe Lagoon,” he says.

Paul laughs when he says,”If they are going to make people walk home than they should make sure there’s a footpath all the way.”

Step 4 - chest pains at Glebe Lagoon. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Step 4 – chest pains at Glebe Lagoon. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Thankfully Paul made it home and was able to see his doctor on the Wednesday.

“It was a chest infection, it’s all good now and I don’t have angina,” he says.

Before publishing Paul’s story I sought comment from the Southern NSW Local Health District.

This is a mistake I thought, people don’t get kicked out of hospital with a blanket at 2am and told to walk home after presenting with chest pains.

In seeking a response I had hoped the Health Service would say, “We are sorry this happened, it won’t happen again.”

After all, around the time of Paul’s experience, the Southern Health CEO and Board Chair were sacked by NSW Health Minister, Brad Hazzard,

The recommendations of the Health Minister’s review had started to be implemented.

A new manager at South East Regional Hospital (SERH) had started work.

The Health Minister and the Shadow Health Minister had both visited SERH since Paul walked home that night.

Things have changed is what the community is told. No, they haven’t is the impression I am left with.

Step 5. Photo: Ian Campbell
Step 5. Photo: Ian Campbell

My request for comment about Paul’s experience was referred to the NSW Health Transport Travel Support Group.

“We are able to perform transport during operational hours if we have capacity but being 2 am, there would have been no capacity,” they said.

“The problem is not that the hospital doesn’t provide transport, but rather that there is only one taxi in Bega and they won’t provide service after hours.

“In cases of hardship we would pay for transport home if there was any available,” the Travel Support Group says.

In my mind, the response fails to understand or address the care that was missing from Paul’s experience that night and undermines assurances that the management and operations at South East Regional Hospital have improved.

Step 6 - almost home. Photo: Ian Campbell
Step 6 – almost home. Photo: Ian Campbell

Where is the care and compassion we assume will be a part of a visit to any hospital?

How is it that people who were drawn to a caring profession are able to give a sick man a blanket for the walk home but not a bed for the night or a ride home?

Where is the understanding of the regional setting in which this facility operates?

Am I right in thinking the NSW Health Service just dumped on the Bega taxi service?

The Health Minister’s review of hospital operations pointed to the need for a cultural change within SERH – on this count the reform so far has failed.

The new Cheif Executive of Southern NSW Local Health District started work this week. Andrew Newton comes from a nursing background and on ABC radio this week spoke of his understanding and appreciation of small hospitals.

He spoke clearly, compassionately, and with knowledge, and recognised the need to retain and attract good staff. The community is hopefully his words translate into better health experiences.

Paul has made an official complaint about his piss-poor treatment, he is yet to receive a response or assurances it won’t happen to someone else.

In the meantime he hangs on to the blanket staff gave him on that cold, fearful night as proof of his hard to believe experience.

 

Earlier coverage from About Regional on this issue:

“Community rallies to fix hospital heartbreak.”

“Review of South East Regional Hospital on track.”

 

Take a drone flight over Dignams Creek roadworks

Looking north over existing highway, July 2017. Photo: RMS
Looking north over the existing highway. Photo: RMS

The roadworks at Dignams Creek, south of Narooma are a real talking point for motorists negotiating the Princes Highway at the moment – the scale of the project is epic.

Twenty-five large pieces of machinery are currently onsite supporting the work of 80 people, who during August, September, October shifted 100,000 cubic meters of earth.

At one point in your journey north or south, you end up in the middle of the worksite under the control of high-viz lollypop people who are dwarfed by the massive wheels and earthmoving blades cutting a wider, safer, straighter roadway through what was once a lush floodplain and a forest of eucalypt and tree ferns.

“This section of road was identified by the State Coronial Inquest 10 years ago as having a very real need to be upgraded,” Member for Bega, Andrew Constance says.

“In that 10 years there have been 26 accidents on this section of highway and unfortunately one life has been lost.”

Looking north over what will be the new bridge over Dignams Creek. Photo: RMS
Looking north over what will be the new bridge over Dignams Creek. Photo: RMS

The end result of this $45 million upgrade will be a widening of the current highway for about 800 metres leading into two-kilometres of new roadway built to current highway standards. There will also be new bridges erected over Dignams Creek and Dignams Creek Road.

“The narrow approach to the bridge and the twists and turns of the road where built to standards that are 70 years old,” Mr Constnace says.

“Modern-day traffic travels quicker and there are more heavy vehicles on the road – it’s important we get on and fix roads like this.

“To see the project progressing now is very pleasing,” he says.

The purple tracks the route of the new highway, to the west of the current bridge and roadway. Photo: RMS
The purple tracks the route of the new highway, to the west of the current bridge and roadway. Photo: RMS

The signs you whizz past on either side of the road point to competition in mid-2019.

In the run-up to Christmas 2017, extra hours have been added to the work schedule, a move welcomed by residents keen to see the finish flag fall.

Crews are now working 6 days a week including Saturdays from 8am till 6pm.

John Cursley and his partner Maggie live 200 metres from the new section of highway, “It’s dusty and the noise at times is quite disrupting, but in defense of them [York Civil Road Engineers] they have tried to address the problem,” Mr Cursley says.

“They changed the beeper on the reversing trucks to a squawker.

“These trucks don’t seem to ever go forward,” Mr Cursley laughs.

Paul Munro and his partner Sally are 100 meters away and pump drinking water from the creek, “Our pipes and basins have been turning blue,” Mr Munro says.

“I think it points to a change in the pH and acidity of our water.

“We’ve been here over 30 years and its the first time we’ve seen these signs,” Mr Munro says.

Rising water levels downstream in the salty Wallaga Lake might also be influencing the water table and makeup of the Munro’s creek water.

Mr Munro doesn’t believe the water is toxic or harmful and has consulted the project’s environmental officer.

“Somethings changed, but there is a lot happening in the catchment – dust, earthworks, new drainage, so its hard to know where the change has come from, we’ll be keeping an eye on water quality,” Mr Munro says.

Both men also have concerns about flooding while works take place, worried what will happen if an East Coast Low forms and drops a lot of rain while the ground is open and exposed.

“The quicker they get the job done the better,” Mr Cursley says.

“It is what it is, we just have to see it out,” Mr Munro says.

Andrew Constance says he is particularly grateful for the input and understanding of local residents.

“At the end of the day, we’ve got to put community safety first, and I am confident the end result will address all concerns,” Mr Constance says.

“Look this work needed doing, the bridge is too narrow and the corner too steep,” Mr Cursley says.

Looking south over the new section of highway at the northern end. Photo: RMS
Looking south over the new section of highway at the northern end. Photo: RMS

Motorists will be moved to a new 800-metre temporary road at the northern end of the project from Monday November 27 until mid-2018, and work will be put on hold between December 16 and January 8 in order to keep holiday traffic moving.

“And motorists need to remember there are 80 people working on this site, and they need to go home to their families each night,” Mr Constance says.

“So please drive with patience, observe the reduced speed limits and traffic controls.”

*About Regional content is supported by the contribution of members, thank you to – Julie Rutherford Real Estate Bermagui, Fiona Cullen, Nancy Blindell, Jo Riley-Fitzer, Jenny Anderson, Ali Oakley, Julia Stiles, and Patrick Reubinson.

Youth Stage at Cobargo Folk Festival turns 13 – entries open now for 2018

Sarah Lindgard from Eden Marine High. Photo: Supplied
Sarah Lindgard from Eden Marine High. Photo: Supplied

The Crossing Youth Stage at the annual Cobargo Folk Festival has an impressive back-catalogue.

Almost 700 young acts have entertained festival-goers and in 2018 the Youth Stage turns thirteen.

Young people interested in performing and adding to the tradition are invited to apply online before December 10 to secure a place.

“Because of the history and fun we’ve had over the years, applications are filling fast, there is a limited number of sets available,” The Crossing’s Annette Turner says.

“The Folk Festival really believes in providing a designated space for young performers, and we’ve really seen it become a highlight in amongst the star-studded festival program.”

The Youth Stage builds on the day to day work of The Crossing Land Education Trust at Bermagui.

The Trust is based in a magnificent Spotted Gum forest on the edge of the Bermagui River.

Established in 1999 and lead by Dean and Annette Turner, The Crossing is a unique not-for-profit educational camp where teens for near and far learn about Landcare, sustainable design, habitat, and wildlife research in a hands-on, practical way.

Greater self-awareness, confidence, initiative  – and a good time is the spin-off for those who take part.

“We take that notion of having a go in a supportive environment to The Youth Stage and give young people experience performing in front of live audiences,” Annette says.

Most performers are local but a few young people from further afield like Canberra and Wollongong have heard about the opportunity and in recent years have been making the most of the festival experience.

Rhys Davis and Llew Badger in 2014. Photo: Supplied
Rhys Davies and Dizzi Stern in 2014. Photo: Supplied

Names on The Crossing Youth Stage honour role include Cooma’s Vendulka, Brogo’s Daniel Champagne, Bega’s Rhys Davies, and Merimbula’s Kim Churchill, who have all gone on to bigger stages and bigger audiences around Australia and around the world.

“There is always such a broad range of music,” Annette says.

“All music is welcome with opportunities for young people to perform a single song or an entire set – you can even come and juggle.

“And what I really love is that some will go away and really hone their skills between festivals and return with new material, different line-ups, and more confidence,” Annette smiles.

The Stage also provides an important hub and hang out for young festival goers, with an atmosphere of respect and inclusion for all.

Spin-offs from the Youth Stage have included a Songwriters Camp held at The Crossing during the school year that gives young people an opportunity to develop their talent and craft under the guidance of professional musicians and performers.

The 2018 Cobargo Folk Festival runs March 2 to 4, the program so far includes Eric Bogle, Neil Murray, The Northern Folk, and David Ross McDonald. Those interested in performing at The Crossing Youth Stage need to register online before December 10.

*The Crossing Land Education Trust are Community Group Members of About Regional.