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Plan put forward to save Bulli Hospital’s ED

AN innovative proposal to help save Illawarra and other community hospital emergency departments from downgrades and closures has been presented to Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek.

The plan was put to the minister on the eve of a planned masive rally at the Bulli Masonic Hall at 2.30pm on Sunday July 29.

The Save Bulli Hospital Emergency Department Group (Save Bulli ED Group) believe the federal government should use the windfall gained from reduced tax concessions for private health insurance to fund staff for smaller hospital emergency departments.

Their proposal, addressed to Minister Plibersek was handed to the Federal MP for Cunningham Sharon Bird at her Crown Street office on Friday July 13.

Save Bulli ED convenor said earlier this year, Minister Plibersek announced that savings made from cutting private health tax subsidies could pay the salaries of an extra ‘13,000 extra doctors or 26,500 nurses’.

“We think that’s an excellent idea – and we know exactly where to put them. We say, put those thousands of doctors and nurses into hospital emergency departments now under threat of closure in the Illawarra and across Australia,” Ms Fettell said.

“One of the incredible pressures on smaller hospitals like Bulli is the Commonwealth flat-fee funding model. A compensatory scheme to support our small hospitals emergency departments to keep operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week would be an absolute boon.”

The federal “activity-based funding” model gives health dollars to states based on a flat fee for each procedure. Big hospitals with a large volume of procedures are then favoured by state bureaucrats as they can (in theory) do things cheaper on a per-case basis.

“Basically, we’re being sold down the river, along with dozens of other smaller hospitals,” Ms Fettell said.

Supporters of Bulli Hospital had expressed their disappointment last month in the lack of funding in the state budget to upgrade Bulli Emergency Department. Their new appeal to the federal government will resonate with many other communities threatened by hospital closures and reduced emergency services. The Save Bulli ED Group proposes:

* Doctors and nurses to be recruited specifically to work at each hospital emergency department, not rostered on from elsewhere;

* Emergency department equipment which has been secretly taken away from community hospitals and commandeered to central hospitals to be returned;

* Community hospital boards to be reestablished;

* 24/7 emergency services to be maintained or reinstated at each hospital, including Bulli, Port Kembla and Kiama;

* Funding to be given to public hospital emergency departments, not urgent care centres;

* Ambulances to be allowed to take suitable patients to Bulli, and the ambulance “Bypass Bulli” order revoked.

“There are over a hundred hospitals under threat across NSW. Some have been closed completely, and some have lost after hours emergency doctors. We’re worried that by the time people wake up to what is happening it may be too late, our wonderful network of hospitals will be gone,” Alison said. “You can’t plan an emergency. If it’s an emergency, you need to get immediately to a nearby hospital to be stabilised and treated.”

Caroline Colton of Woonona agrees.

“If this is a sound economy and if we are a first world country, we shouldn’t be closing down hospital emergency departments,” she said. “Emergency Departments are basic services – even the poorest countries have them. Bulli Hospital was built by the community and it’s been a core part of the community for over a hundred years. We won’t let it go.”

About Mick Roberts

A newspaper journalist, writer and local historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of pubs, inns and associated industries in the Sydney and Illawarra regions of NSW for over 30 years. He is currently working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides authoring a number of history books, Mick has owned and operated several community newspapers. He was one time editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limited), Sydney based, City News, and is now with Torch Publications based in Canterbury Bankstown, NSW.

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