The Reverend Ivan Dehnert sits in the Lismore Base Hospital chapel on his last day as the resident chaplain, after his job was ‘deleted’ by the North Coast Area Health Service as part of 400 job cuts.
The Reverend Ivan Dehnert sits in the Lismore Base Hospital chapel on his last day as the resident chaplain, after his job was ‘deleted’ by the North Coast Area Health Service as part of 400 job cuts. David Neilsen

Reverend Ivan Dehnert final prayer

IT WAS with much sorrow and regret that the Reverend Ivan Dehnert left the chapel at Lismore Base Hospital for the last time yesterday.

Not simply because he had been retrenched from the position he had cherished for the last seven years, but more for the sick and dying patients who will no longer receive his pastoral and emotional support when they are most vulnerable and in need.

“I have mixed feelings,” Mr Dehnert said sitting in the chapel. “It’s a sad day for the hospital because the position won’t be available in the future and it’s a sad day personally because the future for myself is uncertain.

“It’s always sad saying goodbye to people you know and respect, and the many patients who have chronic illnesses who you’ve seen over many years.”

Since The Northern Star broke the news last month that the hospital’s chaplain position would be ‘deleted’ as part of the 400 job cuts across North Coast Area Health there has been an outpouring of gratitude from former patients and their families.

“It’s been very humbling,” Mr Dehnert said.

“I always feel I could have done the job better, but it makes me feel good. It’s good people recognise the value of what’s done and the importance of what’s done.”

Mr Dehnert said the role of hospital chaplain was to go on ‘an emotional and spiritual journey’ with patients and their families.

“A chaplain addresses a lot of questions people have when they are sick or injured that may not normally come to the surface, because people in hospital tend to be vulnerable and want to talk about issues that may not be easy to talk about with family – their fears and concerns about the future,” he said.

Many of those who sought his help this year would not realise that Mr Dehnert has quietly fought his own battles.

In May he was hospitalised in Sydney with a non-malignant tumour in his left ear. After it was removed, it was discovered there was bleeding on his brain.

“Everything went okay. I can’t hear out of my left ear, but that’s okay. It does give you another perspective when you become a patient yourself,” he said.

At 59 and without a job for the first time since he quit the law for a religious life, Mr Dehnert is unsure what the future now holds.

“I’m the type of person that takes a while to process things, so it will probably hit me on Monday,” he said as the interview, and his job, drew to an end.



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