Ballina residents (from left) Joan Agnew, Marilyn Myers, and Jenny Potts at yesterday’s meeting to discuss drastic NCAHS funding cuts.
Ballina residents (from left) Joan Agnew, Marilyn Myers, and Jenny Potts at yesterday’s meeting to discuss drastic NCAHS funding cuts. David Nielsen

NCAHS cut budget to the bone

JENNY POTTS, of Ballina, is in good health, but at 71 she can foresee a time when she will need medical help from the North Coast Area Health Service.

And that is why she, and five of her friends, attended an emergency community meeting called by the Northern Rivers Health Care Group about the state of the health service yesterday.

“We should fight to keep it here for us,” Mrs Potts said.

The meeting was called to show support for nurses after Wednesday’s NSW Nurses Association rally against job cuts.

Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell, one of the speakers at the meeting, said the health service was ‘run down’ and ‘inadequate.’

The mayor said she was asked if she wanted to go home from Lismore Base Hospital just 12 hours after having a breast and 23 lymph nodes removed as treatment for breast cancer last October.

Cr Dowell said she was too sick to leave the hospital and was shocked she had been asked to.

“It felt like I was being rushed home,” Cr Dowell said.

Cr Dowell said nurses and doctors at the health service were under extreme pressure.

Nurses Association spokesman Gil Wilson said the health service had a ‘budget before health’ mentality.

“It’s not fat any more, they are cutting into bone,” said Mr Wilson when describing the recent round of job cuts by the health service.

The cuts, he said, were closing wards.

Rural health expert Dr Sue Page said people living in the country were one-and-a-half to three times more likely to die from treatable illnesses than those living in the city.

Dr Page said some hospitals in the big cities had marble floors and hairdressing salons.

She demanded rural communities get their fair share of the health budget to supply basic health care services and equipment.

Britta Budden, of Casino, speaking during an open floor session of the meeting, said the town’s doctors were exhausted from covering shifts at the Casino and Distinct Memorial Hospital after the recently employed medical officer walked out.

Ms Budden said the town’s health services would not cope with an expected influx of aged people.

As a result of the meeting a lobbying body will be formed.



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