Lismore MP blasts plan to move unit to coast

LISMORE MP Thomas George has blasted the move to build an $8million rehabilitation centre at Ballina as 'ludicrous'.

Mr George has told State Parliament the 33-bed public rehabilitation unit at St Vincent's Hospital in Lismore must be retained.

He demanded the NSW Government direct the North Coast Area Health Service to use recently announced oneoff capital works funds to build a new Lismore centre.

However, the NCAHS has said it plans to use the grant to build a new rehab centre at Ballina Hospital.

NCAHS chief executive Chris Crawford said the health service needed to prove the Ballina centre can be completed by June next year to qualify for the funds.

"We are 70 per cent there in our planning and hope it will proceed," Mr Crawford said.

"Ballina's 65-plus aged population will increase by 6 per cent (from 18 per cent to 24 per cent) by 2011 and its need for aged care and rehabilitation services was identified three years ago.

"But Lismore will not be left without services. As an interim measure we anticipate retaining 8 to 12 inpatient beds at St Vincent's Hospital.

"In the longer term a new 24-bed rehabilitation centre is planned for Lismore Base Hospital as part of the stage three redevelopment."

However, Mr George said the option put forward by Mr Crawford was 'simply not good enough'.

"This is completely unacceptable," Mr George said.

"Lismore is a city and needs to retain its first-class rehabilitation service.

"What will Lismore be left with when the 33 rehabilitation beds it currently has are replaced with possibly as few as eight beds?

"More than half of the patients using the St Vincent's rehabilitation service come from Lismore and nearby surrounding areas.

"Many will have to suffer the inconvenience of travelling to Ballina, where there are no specialist services such as MRI scans, orthopaedic specialists and acute medical care.

"It's no good saying Lismore will get a new rehab centre when Lismore Base Hospital is upgraded.

"We have no idea if and when that will happen.

"If we lose the service now, we may wait a very long time to get it back, or lose it completely."

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