Closure causing pain
ROY and Brenda Harris are the faces of a community in pain as Coraki is advised it may take another three months before the hospital is re-opened.
As locals continue the fight to re-open the 100-year-old Campbell Hospital - which closed in September last year due to storm damage - Roy Harris faces his own constant battles with diabetes, infections and heart problems, and has to travel to either Lismore Base or Ballina hospitals and stay for weeks at a time.
"He needs constant hospital care," Brenda said.
"And he needs me to visit him every day when he's in there.
"Since December, he's been in hospital five times."
For the 70-plus-year-old couple, this adds a huge burden to their lives, according to daughter-in-law Sharmaine Harris, who lives in Lismore.
"We drive Brenda to the hospital every day to see Roy at Lismore Base," she said.
"The cost of petrol and parking - if we can get it - all adds up. If we can't get parking, Brenda has to walk from the Kmart car park, and that's a lot for her.
"If Roy was in Coraki Hospital, Brenda could easily ride up there on her scooter."
At the beginning of this month, representatives from the Save the Hospital Committee and Coraki Village Voice met with the chair of the Northern NSW Local Health District Board, Hazel Bridgett, and the executive director of the Richmond and Clarence Health Services Group, Vahid Saberi.
"(Ms Bridgett) said the Board had considered the structural engineer's report, which indicated about $269,000 would be required to repair storm damage to the hospital, and a schedule of other works which ideally should also be undertaken at the same time. These amounted to approximately $1.4 million," representative Melva Thompson said.
"The Board decided that, before authorising expenditure on the hospital, it would commission a health services report which would examine the health services available in the region and identify gaps which could be filled by a re-developed hospital.
"The whole process will take at least a further three months."
Brenda Harris has her own health problems to deal with on top of looking after Roy. She recently had cataracts removed from her eyes and is awaiting heart surgery.
She described the closure of the local hospital as absolutely tragic.
"So many people like us have been inconvenienced," she said.
"Coraki is an ageing community where we need a lot more medical facilities, not less."
Despite fears that the hospital may now remain closed permanently, Brenda and Roy remain hopeful.
"They did say it was going to be opened before Christmas, but well ...." Brenda said.
She believes budgets have, sadly, become more important than people.
"When (Northern NSW Local Health District board members) are so far away they can't see what the community needs," she said.
"I think some of their top people should come in here and see what's happening."