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Outrage over Bulli ED closure

THE decision to close the northern Illawarra’s only hospital emergency department will put lives at risk, says Save Bulli ED Group.

The lobby group have put the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD) board on notice that the community will hold them responsible for any adverse health outcomes due to “this nonsensical decision”.

The Bulli emergency department (ED) will be replaced with a 7am to 10pm GP type practice, says Save Bulli ED Group spokesperson Alison Fettell.

Ridding Bulli of its ED comes as a recommendation of the ISLHD board’s endorsement of the Health Care Services Plan 2012-2022 – Working Together Building Healthy Futures. Finalisation of the plan follows six-months of heated debate in the community, which has included protest meetings and demonstrations, feedback from almost 800 participants representing clinicians and hospital staff, general practitioners, the community, consumer groups and other stakeholders.

Under the plan the Bulli and Coledale Hospital precincts will be developed into “centres of excellence” aged care facilities.

The community and State Labor MP for Keira Ryan Park have reacted angrily, calling for the NSW Health MInister Jillian Skinner to reverse her decision.

Mr Park wants the NSW Government to allocate some of the one billion dollars that the NSW Auditor General, Peter Achterstraat has now revealed was mistakenly not included in the NSW budget, to keep Bulli’s ED a 24 hour operation.

Ms Fettell, meanwhile, says the ISLHD board, on the advice of the CEO Susan Browbank, are about to remove a life saving essential service that the northern Illawarra have had for decades.

“This service has been saving lives on a daily basis for years and should be upgraded. But now, based on manipulated data, the ISLHD Board has decided to strip us of our life saving overnight safety net,” she said.

“The ISLHD are trying to convince the community that providing a GP style service, not an emergency department at Bulli Hospital will be no different to what is being provided now. If this was not so dangerous it would be comical,” she said.

“How can you say on the one hand that the service will now only treat GP like cases and will now only be open for 15 hours not 24 and at the same time say that ‘the service provided will remain at the current level’? Sounds like spin to me.”

The Save Bulli ED is calling on the Miners Federation, NSW Nurses Association, P&Cs, Seniors Groups and the community to raise their combined voices in rejecting the latest plan for the Bulli Hospital ED.

Mr Park, however, says he is expecting State MP for Heathcote Lee Evans to be arguing for some of the one billion dollars, mistakenly not included in the NSW Budget, to keep Bulli’s ED open.

“Look, this is completely outrageous, on one hand we have a Government who week after week say that they were left with a black hole and don’t have the funds for important upgrades like those at Bulli Hospital, yet today we have found out that there is actually another billion dollars in the coffers,” he said.

Mr Park says he intends on formally writing to the NSW Treasurer Mike Baird with a list of key projects that can be funded.

“Bulli Hospital is of course on top of the list, but upgrades to local schools and roads infrastructure are also important as to is employment of additional case workers to help families and children in need,” he said.

“Today is a very embarrassing day for the NSW Government. But instead of trying to weasel their way out of it they should let Illawarra residents know exactly what projects will now be funded with this extra cash,” he said.

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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