It's been a while since I reported on the campaign to Save Bellingen Hospital.
If I understand the campaign Facebook page and official website correctly, real action on the official side appears to have been in a state of stasis pending the formation of the area health network, with campaign actions focused there plus continuing efforts to help the hospital.
In the meantime, problems at Coff's Harbour continue the pressure to re-open Bellingen Hospital's Emergency Department. I thought here that I would just quote a recent entry from the Facebook page.
Jenny Edman: Have just read todays Advocate, so a few weeks ago Coffs Campus was inundated with sick people, surely that should send a message to the NCHS that Bellingen needs to open it's ED department, if our locals had to travel all the way from Dorrigo or Bellingen to have to wait up to 9 hrs to be seen by a Dr is ridiculous, shame a 100 fold on NCHS, until next year it is still working for the mid north coast.
Frank Bolte: What do you mean Dorrigo people can't even get to bello or C/h Monday to fridays during the day. Waterfall way is closed. I feel sorry for them
Mary Peters: i waited five hours / ambulance refused to take me to bello hosp! i wasnt seen i got back to bello myself for injection because of anaphalactic reaction! im disgusted... as i could see for myself how many ppl in waiting and in ed / no one saw anyone in that five hours where was the doctors! four nurses pushing an empty bed laughing and police standing there with ambos discussing how bad the system is all in earshot of the patients / simply a disgrace really!
Tasha Lee: What about dundurrabin thats 20 mins from dorrigo. i am due to give birth in febuary thats a looong drive to a woman in labour and i read last week there wasnt even a peadeatrician on duty for a full week they were sending women to john hunter hospital to give birth. now if i even make the hour and a half trip down the mountain into coffs im not going to make it to john hunter especialy considering my last daughter was born in bello 20mins after i arrived total labour time 1hour 20 mins. not knowing where my baby will be born is causing a great deal of anxiety for me
For those who don't know the area at all:
- When the mountain road is closed, the nearest hospital to Dorrigo is in Armidale, 124k or 1hour 40 away by car.
- When the mountain road is open, Dorrigo is 29k, roughly 21 minutes, from Bellingen. If you come from other parts of the Dorrigo such as Dundurrubin, then extra travel time is involved; Dorrigo sits at one side of the Plateau adjacent to the escarpment to the coast.
- Bellingen is 35k, 32 minutes from Coffs. Dorrigo is 64k from Coffs, 53 minutes, plus any travel time from elsewhere on the Plateau.
All distances and drive times are approximate depending on location and weather.
Some of these drive times may not so sound long to Sydneysiders with the city's traffic congestion. However:
- Those in the area have seen the closure first of the Dorrigo hospital and then the downgrading of Bellingen Hospital through centralisation of services, adding to the time and difficulty of accessing hospital services. Obviously, those on the Dorrigo plateau have suffered the greatest impact.
- Coffs Harbour Hospital is large and over-stretched. There are simply not the alternative nearby base hospitals that you would find in Sydney. John Hunter, the other hospital mentioned, is in Newcastle, a five hour drive away. If you have to travel that distance, I would have thought Armidale a better option, although it may not have the capacity.
- Not everybody has access to cars. Public transport is limited, taxis expensive. I am not sure how many ambulances are available, but I would have thought that the number was not large relative to potential peak demand.
The crux of the Bellingen argument, then, is not just that they have been losing services, but that everybody in the Valley and on the Plateau, and indeed the whole Coffs Harbour hospital catchment area, would be better off if certain services were restored to Bellingen Hospital.