Ballina health care expands


WORK will begin next week on a $4.8 million transitional care unit at Ballina Hospital, the NSW State Government will announce today.

The 18-bed unit would be jointly funded by the State and Federal governments, said Paul McLeay, Parliamentary Secretary for Health.

The unit will provide a specialised service for the aged moving from hospital or rehabilitation to independent living at home.

The project is expected to be completed by July.

The unit is the first stage of a controversial health services plan envisaged for the Ballina site, incorporating enhanced rehabilitation and outpatient care.

State MP for Lismore Thomas George has expressed concern that plans for the Ballina development would reduce services in Lismore.

However, chief executive of the North Coast Area Health Service, Chris Crawford, has welcomed the move, saying the Ballina unit will help Lismore by reducing pressure on the city's resources.

"Ballina residents won't have to come to Lismore for rehabilitation," Mr Crawford said.

"We haven't made any final decisions about closure of beds in Lismore yet.

"We are investigating the possibility of closing eight beds at St Vincent's Hospital which are possibly being used primarily for transitional care."

State MP for Ballina Don Page said the unit was wellplaced as it would help Ballina's large ageing population.

"It will be a resource available to everyone in the region," he said.

Mr Crawford said approval of funds for the extended de- velopment was likely.

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