Hospital crisis deepens

Bonalbo residents protest at the decision to close the hospital’s emergency department between 11pm and 7am.
Bonalbo residents protest at the decision to close the hospital’s emergency department between 11pm and 7am. Eve Sinton

RESIDENTS of Bonalbo and surrounding districts responded swiftly yesterday to the closure of their hospital's emergency department from 11pm to 7am.

A community-generated rally outside the hospital yesterday drew 149 people armed with signs and slogans.

Meanwhile, local Kyogle Councillor Tom Cooper headed for the council's afternoon meeting with an urgent business motion.

"I will be moving that, on behalf of residents of Bonalbo and surrounding districts, the Area Health Service immediately reinstate 24-hour emergency health care at Bonalbo Hospital," he said.

Local Aboriginal elder Fred Binge carried a sign proclaiming "a hospital without 24-hour emergency care is not a hospital".

"We are very concerned for the many elders in the area," he said.

"I'm worried the health service is not looking hard enough for a resident doctor."

Acting CEO of the Tabulam Aboriginal Land Corporation, Cederick Walker, shared Mr Binge's concerns.

"The people of Jubullum Village use the hospital service a lot. There are many sick children and elderly people, and they will be missing out. Already there is a lot more pressure on our community transport service for medical appointments."

Local SES member and Save Our Services committee member, Mel Martin, said there had been no community consultation about the night-time closure.

"There are a lot of people living on their own and they have no chance to make alternative arrangements. Already the number of patients being sent to Lismore is putting huge pressure on local carers and drivers. People end up there with no way to get home."

Resident Lance Kirkley said he was angry that Northern NSW Local Health District CEO, Chris Crawford, regularly told the media that Bonalbo patients were transferred to Casino Hospital.

"That hardly ever happens. They almost always end up in Lismore, an hour-and-a-half away - well outside the recommended time frame for getting urgent cases to hospital," he said.

Outside the hospital, the crowd chanted against Chris Crawford and politicians before dispersing.

No Northern NSW Local Health District representatives were present at the rally.



Topics:  emergency health hospital protest rally residents

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