Having been involved in the long saga of trying to bring to fruition the proposal recommended by the NSW Health Department to have the Byron Shire served by a single, central hospital I can very clearly understand the disappointment, anger and frustration expressed at the recent public meeting held at the Mullumbimby Ex-Services Club. This single shire hospital, to replace the then Bangalow hospital together with the hospitals at Byron Bay and Mullumbimby, was first proposed in 1982 following an extensive regional review and study covering the whole of the state’s north-east.
During the 30 years since the adoption of the then NSW Health Commission’s recommendation to close the Bangalow hospital and retain the other two shire hospitals until a new single hospital was built, with the promise of no diminution of services, the only positive has been the purchase of land for the new centre. Sadly the facts are that services have been constantly eroded despite numerous hollow assurances given to the community that this would not happen. These reductions, which include, among many others, a significant reduction in the number of available beds, have resulted in large numbers of patients now having to be sent out of the shire for treatment that was available locally in 1982.
I can assure Janine and Gill that they have the full support of all the other members of the Byron Shire Health Services Community Action Group as we continue our long struggle to ‘look after our own closer to home’.