The Save Our Hospital Inc (SOHI) committee has vowed to continue the fight to save Pambula hospital. At the AGM on Thursday, April 17 at the Pambula Merimbula Golf Club, which was attended by local SOHI members, re-elected public officer and committee member, Geoff Dove, echoed Goff Whitlam’s words in when he said: “We must maintain the rage.”
The meeting heard from Sharon Tapscott, who has been re-elected as president and also sits on the Pambula Hospital community committee. Mrs Tapscott said that in terms of achievement “the doors (to Pambula hospital) are still open and we have a functioning emergency department (ED)”.
However Mrs Tapscott said that the committee was aiming to have a 24/7 ED at the very least and low level/day surgery. She also said that a paediatric department was needed for asthma attacks and high temperatures in children.
“We need to make sure we don’t lose services. The Local Health District (LHD) needs to understand that Pambula hospital is warranted and needed,” she said.
Concerns were raised over the options paper that had been presented to Pambula Hospital committee members which had been prepared by the LHD and reflected the LHD’s view of the future for Pambula hospital. SOHI committee members all pointed to the first item on the options paper which stated that there was no benefit in retaining the status quo at Pambula hospital, something they considered to be very worrying.
Pambula hospital costs $6.5 million to run and the LHD wants to find an alternative model for Pambula so that some, if not all, of that recurrent funding can be put towards the new regional hospital in Bega. Consequently the LHD has identified medical care models which gain their funding from alternative sources or do not require as much funding such as the NSW HealthOne model or an Express Community Care Clinic. Both models remove Pambula’s status as a hospital and do not handle acute cases although LHD officials say that acute cases are taken to Bega hospital directly now anyway with treatment by transporting paramedics during the journey.
But the journey itself is considered to be a problem particularly for those living in Eden and further south. There have also been concerns raised that Pambula hospital is likely to be in greater demand in the future with the regular visitation of cruise ships to Eden and the disembarkation of up to 2000 passengers each time. Naval operations and logging movements south of Pambula also have the potential for emergency hospital services closer than Bega.
There are also concerns about the transport strategy for the new regional hospital. Mrs Tapscott said no one had any plans for a transport strategy and so how were elderly people to visit their loved ones in Bega.
“If commonsense prevailed they would be building the regional hospital in the southern part of the shire where there is the greatest population and the most tourists. It was a political decision which has left us with a deficit of care,” Mrs Tapscott said.
The SOHI executive will be meeting to consider its next steps in the battle to retain the hospital at Pambula.
At the AGM members voted Sharon Tapscott president, Margaret Kirkwood secretary, Barbara McCammon treasurer, Frank Simonson and Geoff Dove (also public officer) both a s committee members.