20 September 2021

Eurobodalla Hospital e-petition calls for upgrade to services as pandemic highlights 'desperate need'

| Katrina Condie
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Mylene and Fitzroy Boulting and Georgie Rowley delivering the One Eurobodalla Hospital petition to he Bega office of Andrew Constance. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Mylene and Fitzroy Boulting and Georgie Rowley delivering the One Eurobodalla Hospital petition to the Bega office of Andrew Constance in 2018. Photo: File.

The COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdown restrictions have highlighted the need for an upgraded Level 4 hospital in the Eurobodalla region, with supporters aiming to attract 20,000 signatures on a new online petition.

The ONE New L4 Eurobodalla Hospital Advocates group has launched an e-petition on the NSW Parliamentary website’s petitions page calling for immediate improvements to accident and emergency, critical care and perioperative services.

The petition also requests the State Government commit to a fully-funded Level 4 regional hospital that provides clinical services across accident and emergency – including critical care, surgery, maternity, paediatrics and orthopaedics, as well as a minimum Level 3 across all other services such as mental health.

The e-petition has been launched on the back of a written petition that attracted 3300 signatures in 2018, and follows the announcement in December 2020 of a greenfield site east of Moruya TAFE for the development of the new $200 million Eurobodalla Regional Hospital.

Petition organiser Mylene Boulting said with COVID-19 at our doorstep and an ever-present bushfire threat, there is a desperate need to immediately upgrade hospital services in the Eurobodalla.

“There is no regional hospital in the 300 kilometres between Nowra and Bega,” she said.

“The Eurobodalla region, with a significant First Nations population and one of the highest seniors demographics in Australia, currently has no critical care and intensive care service, no local mental health unit, and no specialist physician, paediatric, anaesthetic or orthopaedic services.”

By comparison, Level 4 services are provided in other areas of the Southern NSW Local Health District with smaller populations – like Bega and Goulburn.

“The obvious unfairness and inequity of this situation must and needs to be resolved,” Mrs Boulting said.

“We are pleading with the government to urgently address the shamefully long-standing healthcare services gaps and shortfalls in the Eurobodalla.”

Celebrations greeted the announcement of the new Eurobodalla hospital site back in December 2020. Photo: Alex Rea.

Eurobodalla’s health service currently sends more than 40 per cent of all its patients to hospitals outside the region because services cannot be provided locally, and with the bushfire season looming and possible road closures, the region is again at risk of being cut off from major hospitals in Nowra, Bega and Canberra.

With the district’s high number of senior residents and significant First Nations population now under threat from the COVID Delta variant, Mrs Boulting says a proper emergency and intensive care service is critical.

She said the “transfer ventilators” recently brought into the Eurobodalla were designed for transporting seriously sick patients out of the region to adequate treatment elsewhere.

“Could there be any reasonable excuse for this half-baked solution given our three-year pre-COVID appeal?”

READ ALSO: Determined HSC students forge ahead despite bushfires, brain surgery and lockdowns

By attracting 20,000 signatures, the ONE group hopes to trigger parliamentary debate about the development of a single new Level 4 health facility that will reduce the outflow of patients to services remote from their families, and attract general practitioners, specialist medical services, nursing and allied health staff to the region.

Mrs Boulting said that three years after the initial petition was presented to Member for Bega Andrew Constance, the issues raised “remain mostly unresolved” with healthcare services and resources “seemingly still stuck on a totally outdated 1970s-type departmental setting”.

Mr Constance said the new regional hospital plan is still being finalised and the aim is to get an Intensive Care Unit and MRI room, along with a larger emergency department as part of the final master plan design.

He agreed the pandemic and bushfires have “absolutely” highlighted the need for improved medical services in the region.

Mr Constance said the new hospital will have more beds than are currently available in both Moruya and Batemans Bay hospitals combined and, when complete, will include an emergency department, critical care services, surgical and operating theatres, a day-stay surgical unit and dedicated medical, surgical and rehabilitation beds.

The hospital will also have medical imaging facilities, an ambulatory care unit for the community to access outpatient health services, increased capacity for chemotherapy, and paediatric and maternity services, as well as education facilities.

“Early designs will be released as planning progresses for community and stakeholder consultation and the community will continue to be updated,” Mr Constance said.

On Tuesday 31 August and Wednesday 1 September, more than 90 community members attended online community information sessions.

Mrs Boulting said the group is concerned about the time it will take to roll out the upgraded services and is calling for the Level 4 status to be implemented “when the ribbon is cut” on the new hospital – not five or 10 years down the track.

Residents from Ulladulla to Narooma are encouraged to sign the petition HERE and Mrs Boulting said people who have already signed the paper petition were permitted to sign both.

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