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Byron Shire
May 16, 2021

The big role of little hospitals

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The letter to the editor from Colin Clarke (Echonetdaily, 7 June) reads like disinformation from the Health Department.

Who else stands to gain from shutting down little hospitals? Indeed even the health department may regret it as ambulances to bigger hospitals are expensive and in short supply. In England, cottage hospitals that were closed are being reopened as the false economy of centralising becomes evident. Both Bellingen and Murwillumbah hospitals have been threatened with cuts, yet are flourishing now because of community protests.

Sickness doesn’t go away by shutting peripheral hospitals; it just gets transported long ways, to wait long times and be expensively investigated by nervous-of-lawyers young doctors who don’t know the patient or the community. Relatives, including elderly spouses, then have to travel a long way to see inpatients.

Yes, Mr Clarke, we need an adult conversation on health, starting with some facts. Counting just inner-town Mullumbimby as 3,100 persons ignores the much greater population in the hinterland, driving poor roads in slow cars often, and Ocean Shores and Brunswick and tourists and festival goers. At holiday times many people have elderly sick relatives from other areas come to visit. Counting the beds as 28 is perhaps true of mattresses, but actually only 14 are funded for nursing support. The same goes for Byron Hospital and the other little hospitals, which often function as nursing homes for frail elderly.

Mr Clarke’s insulting the democratic process by mocking protests ignores the many times such activities have forestalled assault on services, and shows a smug disregard for those who were not consulted before the decisions.

The little hospitals take pressure off bigger hospitals, employ many people and are part of rural industries, families and a civilised rich country that can afford care for more vulnerable members of the community. I have worked as a doctor in such casualties for 22 years and have seen the skill, kindness and good work of this special part of our community.

Dr Liz Elliott, Mullumbimby


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  1. Dr. Liz Elliott speaks correctly from years of experience in small town healthcare. May I suggest that the residents of Mullumbimby go around all the bureaucratic crap, and hire a few doctors from Cuba. In their homeland they’re paid $25 per month. Cuba exports thousands of doctors in exchange for oil, food, and pretty much everything else they need. Let’s just get our own, take care of them ourselves, and ignore the incompetence and lack or rationality or compassion our government so consistently displays.


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