Minister opens $9.4m Kyogle health centre
By ZOE SATHERLEY
WHEN Kyogle's Tom Fitzgerald 'retired' 10 years ago he had no idea his next decade would be spent working even longer hours, spearheading the fight for the town's health services.
Yesterday, the man Lismore MP Thomas George hailed as being 'as small as a fox terrier but with the bite of an alsatian', was feted by many at the opening of Kyogle Memorial Health ? the town's new $9.4 million health facility.
Everyone from NSW Health Minister John Hatzistergos to North Coast Area Health Service boss Chris Crawford paid tribute to volunteer Tom and his hardworking Kyogle Health Services Planning Committee.
Tom, 68, a former administration manager, told the packed gathering that at times he despaired of ever seeing the project completed.
"The wheels of time move slowly in government departments," he said.
"At one point we were even told by the Department of Health there was no point in continuing, and that the proposal would never be funded.
"It has been an intensely frustrating struggle, but this new centre is a big win for the people of Kyogle, and particularly for our frail aged population."
The centre offers 12 acute care and 25 aged care beds, a 24hour emergency department, radiology and community health services.
Also receiving a heart-felt round of applause at the opening was 94-year-old Jean Dawes, of Kyogle, who remembers being present when the foundation stone of the original Kyogle Hospital was laid in 1924.
She had two children born at the hospital and was also once a patient.
In 2003, when work first began on the new centre, Jean had the honour of turning the first sod. She still has the little silver spade proudly displayed on her lounge room wall.
Jean praised the new agedcare facility at the hospital, but said she was still too young to move in.
"I might consider it when I'm older. If I need it," she said.
The building of Kyogle Memorial Health was 'a major achievement in community action', Mr Hatzistergos said, praising the community for their effort in raising $224,000 towards it.