While I have never lived in Bellingen, I have known the town all my life and written about it on this blog a number of times.
Bellingen now faces a threat to its hospital services and the locals have organised to try to save it. You will find the Save Bellingen Hospital web site here.
The Bellingen Hospital case is an example of the increasing conflict that has arisen between the needs of centralised service delivery on one side, local needs and indeed history on the other.
To health planners concerned about value for health dollars at a time of budget stress, the idea of rationalising services across broader areas appeals greatly and has done so for a number of years. However, there can be a fundamental conflict between this and local aspirations and needs.
To the health planner, a local hospital is a piece on a chess board to be moved or given up in the interests of the greater game. To the local, the hospital is an integral part of their life. They have worked for it, they were born there, their children were born there, family and friends have died there, they have visited it many times, they know the staff.
You can see this clearly if you look at the newly established Save Bellingen Hospital public Facebook page. Just a few quotes:
- Marguerite: Bellingen Hospital was a very decisive factor in my sea change from Sydney to Bellingen over a decade ago. As a single mother with a young asthmatic child I needed to know that I could access an emergency service, that was close by, no matter what time of day or night. I have indeed used the service many times and wou...ld feel that the community would be robbed of this asset . Although my daughter has since grown up and moved away. I would like to see the hospital survives this senseless closure, ensuring its fantastic care for others with high health risks.
- Briony: I broke my shoulder bone, from a horse riding accident way back when I was about 12. I was treated at Bellingen hospital, they were very good to me!!
- Hannah: I had may major asthma attacks at Bello , they saved my life more than once, and there was never a wait x.
- Laura: My mother and auties were born in Belligen Hospital, all my 7 brothers and
sisters and I were born at Bellingen Hospital, 2 of my 4 children were
born at Bellingen, For 1 i was forced to go to coffs due to bellingens
services being down graded and just 7 months ago I gave birth at home
because it was the only option that suited my family situation. Neither me or my husband drive and many a time we have needed to catch a taxi to make the 4minute trip to the hospital in
the middle of the night when our little pumpkins have been ill. Catching a taxi to coffs or having to wait for a ambulance in the middle of the night is not only unnecessary but could be life
threatening. Please keep the hospital services we have and my wish is
that they will go back to what they were.
- Tokana: I know that I've always gone to Bellingen Hospital, even f I needed to be transferred. I will have my children at Bellingen Hospital one day. I love and appreciate the wonderful staff who put in long hours and never complain at what they do -but they do complain about the wages not being enough for the amount of time they put into the hospital and their patients. They also make you feel welcome and important. They're always friendly to patients and each other, and they tend to your needs. SAVE BELLINGEN HOSPITAL!!!!
- Carol: They should go back and read or listen to the The Elders from the Indiginous people of this land as a lot of our relatives use to walk the back road from Bowraville to Bellingen Hostpital to have there babies. My three grand children were born in Bellingen Hostpital and all the Doctors and Staff have always been there for me when I neeed there help SOOOOOO p[LEASE don't close our wonderful hostpital down as the whole Community needs the doors to be kept opened.
- David: As we recently had our hospital closed down in Cowes, I feel for you. Can't these idiots get their priorities right?
If you look at these comments, you can see the way people still love and trust their local hospital at a time when distrust in health services and hospitals has been on the rise.
Over time, the inexorable centralisation of health services has weakened local hospitals. All country people know this. They have seen services withdrawn, forcing them to travel increasing distances for service if indeed they can travel. Not everyone has a car, and public transport is often poor.
This has economic and social effects and actually increases the normal dangers of life. If the Bellinger River floods as it does so often, then access to Coffs may be cut. It becomes harder to attract people to live in specific communities. It becomes harder for older people who may need care to stay in their communities.
One might accept some of these outcomes if country health services were delivering better results. However, the reality appears to be a growing gap in health outcomes between country and metro areas.
Given the fundamental disconnect between the models currently used in health planning and community needs and aspirations, the only weapon available to locals is protest. This is the reason why the Bellingen community is looking to attract as much support as possible for the preservation of the local hospital.
You can help them and also follow the cause by joining the Save Bellingen Hospital Facebook page.