5 November 2021

'Open the door at Level 4' rally planned for Moruya bridge after second hospital petition presented to Labor MPs

| Katrina Condie
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Cancer survivor Cathie Hurst (right) presents the ONE action group petition to Federal Member for Eden Monaro Kristy McBain and Federal Member for Gilmore Fiona Phillips.

Cancer survivor Cathie Hurst (right) presents the ONE action group petition to Federal Member for Eden Monaro Kristy McBain and Federal Member for Gilmore Fiona Phillips. Photo: Karyn Starmer.

Frustrated Eurobodalla residents will take to the streets on 27 November with an ‘Open the door at Level 4’ hospital protest march over the Moruya Bridge.

Doctor Michael Holland from the ONE – One New Eurobodalla Hospital action group, has invited community members to assemble at the corner of Shore Street and the Princes Highway at 10:30 am before marching across the bridge, calling on the State and Federal Governments to commit to a Level 4 regional hospital that includes an intensive care unit.

The protest rally has been planned following the delivery of a petition containing almost 3500 signatures to Federal Member for Gilmore Fiona Phillips yesterday (Wednesday 3 November).

Mrs Phillips, along with Federal Member for Eden Monaro Kristy McBain and members of the ONE group, met with NSW Shadow Minister for Health and Shadow Minister for the Illawarra and South Coast, Ryan Park MP, who has joined the fight for a new Eurobodalla Regional Hospital.

“Thousands of people in the seat of Bega have signed this new petition calling on the government to provide better health services in the Eurobodalla,” Mr Park said.

“They are simply asking for what they were promised.”

The Eurobodalla Shire has the second largest population in the area covered by the Southern NSW Local Health District, one of the largest seniors populations and a significant First Nations population.

The maternity service has the largest number of presentations of births for a rural maternity service in Southern NSW.

Despite this, Mr Park says the new hospital is set to open with a reduction in maternity, neonatal and paediatric beds, no inpatient mental health services and no intensive care unit.

“We know that many patients in the Eurobodalla are forced to travel outside the region for vital health services and mental health services,” he said.

“They deserve to have access to the same services as people in other major centres.”

Mr Park said the community concern was not about the building, but about the services and staff within the facility.

“The NSW Government points to hospital upgrades – but bricks and mortar don’t save lives – doctors, nurses and paramedics do,” he said.

Mrs Phillips said the community is asking for a basic level of care that people in the city take for granted.

“After the announcement was made in 2019, this community was given a level of hope, but now they are ripping out services from the existing facilities,” she said.

“The NSW Government is running down our Eurobodalla hospitals.

“It is not good enough for a rapidly growing population.”

READ ALSO Regional health inquiry: Concerns about wait times, service shortages and planning

Cancer survivor Cathie Hurst presented the petition to Mrs Phillips and explained how travelling outside the local area for treatment increases stress and anxiety on patients and their families.

“To be scared when travelling long distances because you are uncertain of what lies ahead, whether you are going to be embarrassed by vomiting or having a diarrhoea attack on public transport, what’s happening at home, are the children coping, where the money is coming from, do I still have a job… the list goes on,” she said.

“Research shows that people with cancer in regional areas are shockingly 35 per cent more likely to die within five years of diagnosis than patients in the city.

“The death rate for patients with cancer like mine rises by six per cent for every extra 100 km a patient lives away from radiation therapy services.”

NSW Shadow Minister for Health and Shadow Minister for the Illawarra and South Coast, Ryan Park has joined the fight for an upgraded new Eurobodalla Regional Hospital at Moruya, claming retiring Bega MP Andrew Constance has failed to listen to the community.

NSW Shadow Minister for Health Ryan Park has joined the fight for a new Eurobodalla Regional Hospital, claiming retiring Bega MP Andrew Constance has failed to listen to the community. Photo: Karyn Starmer.

The ONE group is calling for an intensive care unit upon opening of the new hospital to stop patients from having to be transferred to other hospitals when they are seriously ill.

“We want the NSW Health bureaucrats to listen properly and change the plans our medical staff have already refused to endorse because these plans put patients’ health at risk,” ONE spokesperson Fitzroy Boulting said.

“If there is one message we would like to send to NSW Health, it is that they need to start learning how to listen genuinely to their main stakeholders and expert clinicians.

“And if they believe that we are going to give up and go away it proves just how out of touch they are.

“We can assure them that, as far as the community is concerned, we are merely warming up – this is merely the end of the beginning.”

Mr Boulting said the action group is pleased that Mr Park has come on board as “a sponsor in NSW Parliament willing to be actively vocal for the hospital”.

Mr Park said the retiring Liberal Member for Bega Andrew Constance promised to build an upgraded Level 4 district hospital in the Eurobodalla in 2018.

“Three years later, all the region has is a clinical services plan described as unsafe and unsustainable by senior clinicians,” he added.

“The Member for Bega is clearly focused on his own career aspirations. He has failed to listen to the community he claims to care about and has sentenced them to an under-resourced and unsafe healthcare system in the Eurobodalla.”

READ ALSO Site revealed for new $200m Eurobodalla Hospital

This is the second petition presented to the Government calling for better health services in the Eurobodalla, the first was presented to the Member for Bega in 2018.

Claims made about the critical state of health services in the Eurobodalla were highlighted in a recent hearing of the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into rural health, when a senior clinician pointed to a dangerous shortage of paediatric and maternity services and a system relying on overstretched and exhausted doctors.

Mr Constance said he was not invited to Wednesday’s public meeting and was unaware of it until contacted by About Regional for comment.

He says Eurobodalla Regional Hospital is getting an intensive care unit.

“It’s in the plan for the hospital and was always part of it,” he said.

“So why is Labor having rallies in the street today?”

Mr Constance said the clinical service planning and master planning for the hospital is still being refined by clinical experts.

“I’m working on ensuring that the MRI room is provided for and the maternity plus emergency department are future-proofed with even greater capacity,” he added.

“Running the new level 4 facility down for political purposes is hardly ideal, when what is important is creating a positive environment to attract staff into the future.”

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