A mum from Bemboka, west of Bega, caring for her son in Canberra Hospital has highlighted the importance of carers accommodation in the capital’s public health precinct as ACT Health advances planning to redevelop the site.
Cheryl Lloyd and her husband have been at their son’s side since 3 November last year when he was flown to the Canberra Intensive Care Unit. Their son’s condition was deemed too grave to be treated in hospitals closer to home.
“We’ve been home for a couple of odd days, but 99 per cent of the time we have been up there and living in the residence,” Cheryl says.
Speaking with the determined weariness of a mum, Cheryl says her 36-year-old son who lives in Bombala with his wife and four daughters, is lucky to be alive.
“They didn’t know was wrong with him for the first few days and then they finally diagnosed him with Influenza- A,” she says.
“From there, his organs closed down, he’s had eight operations in total, three of them to save his life.”
Cheryl’s son was in an induced coma for much of this time; the weight of some big decisions resting with his family.
The simple ‘shoebox’-style bedrooms Cheryl and her husband have been retreating to at the end of their long days have been a home away from home.
The rooms feature two single beds and a wardrobe, with communal bathrooms, kitchen, and lounge facilities.
While not free, the cost is greatly reduced with prices around $50 a night, some of which is claimable through the NSW Health system. Cheryl has lost track of the number of nights she has slept there but estimates they have spent around $2000 so far.
Cheryl struggles to find the words to fully express her gratitude for the care her son has received and her appreciation for the onsite carers accommodation, but she was concerned to hear from others during her stay that the building she has come to call home will be demolished soon.
“Today I spoke to someone that works at the residence and she said that they have 140 people staying tonight. I just wonder where all these people will be staying next year,” she says.
On some nights Cheryl says rooms are unavailable because of the high demand, in the last five months she says she has met people from Merimbula, Goulburn, and Batemans Bay.
“We all get together of a night time in the loungeroom, it’s good to be able to share our stories and help each other,” she says.
“This accommodation is so important to country people who are away from home and have so much to cope with and think about while their loved one is in hospital.”
Speaking to Region Media, a spokesperson for the ACT Health Directorate says planning for the construction of the new Surgical Procedures, Interventional Radiology and Emergency (SPIRE) Centre on the Canberra Hospital campus is advancing.
“The new centre will increase the hospital’s capacity to deliver acute and emergency health care to residents of Canberra and the surrounding region,” the spokesperson explains.
“The site for the new SPIRE Centre encompasses land currently occupied by buildings 5 and 24 – Building 5 includes residential accommodation services.
“The Building 5 Residences will continue to be accessible until the end of 2019 for interstate visitors and carers of patients who live more than 100km from Canberra Hospital.
“Work is currently underway by the ACT Health Directorate and Canberra Health Services (CHS) to develop alternative arrangements to meet the accommodation needs of the families of interstate patients from 2020.
“Any new arrangements for CHS’ accommodation policies for patients and carers travelling long distances to receive treatment, will be in line with those of other large public hospitals around the country.
“The ACT Government understands the pressures on families who travel to Canberra for care, and we are committed to ensuring there will be accommodation support into the future for those who need it.
“There will be engagement with people who require the service or any new arrangements and this will take place closer to the end of the year,” a spokesperson for the ACT Health Directorate says.
Cheryl welcomes the news of an upgraded carers residence and says she is keen to follow the process and make sure country people are looked after.
In the meantime, Cheryl thinks her son has another three to four months in hospital but with rehab to follow, the future is unknown. Her daughter-in-law and granddaughters aged two to ten years are doing the best they can at home supported by the Bombala community.
“His eldest girl is still a little bit frightened of all the tubes coming out of him, they are really missing each other.”
It’s anticipated that the SPIRE project will be completed in 2023-24.