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Byron Shire
April 11, 2021

Mullum rallies to keep its hospital site

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Cherry Johnson, left, with her new baby and expecting mum Sylvia Fenwick outside the Mullumbimby Hospital birthing unit last week. Photo David Bradbury
Cherry Johnson, left, with her new baby and expecting mum Sylvia Fenwick outside the Mullumbimby Hospital birthing unit last week. Photo David Bradbury

The Mullumbimby community is rallying this week in a bid to secure the future of the town’s hospital site, including its popular birthing unit, and prevent it being demolished and sold off.

Health authorities say they will consult locals to decide on future uses for the site but say the old hospital is riddled with asbestos, and they would need to recoup  demolition costs with the proceeds of selling it.

The facility will be decommissioned once the new Byron Central Hospital is opened in March next year.

On Thursday a public rally is being held in the town’s civic hall from 7pm, and organisers for the Mullumbimby Hospital Action Group are urging locals to turn out for a say in the future of the land they say was historically gifted for community health use.

‘It’s really important for this community to show up in numbers this Thursday night and voice their determination not to be railroaded by Macquarie Street and (local district area health chief) Chris Crawford into losing this fine building,’ Mr Bradbury told Echonetdaily.

‘It has the life-force of previous and present generations circling through its corridors and can be used to good purposes in a yawning need today for ‘bricks and mortar’ to help our youth, our aged citizens, our homeless, our community, that would be great,’ he said.

Mr Bradbury said many people were angered with the plans to ‘bulldoze the wealthy real estate in the middle of town site and and sell off the to the highest bidder, using the pretext that they have to pay for the demolition and ‘safe’ removal of the asbestos hazard somehow’.

He says ‘if the Sydney pollies and Northern Rivers Health officials have their way, the Mullum birth unit will be reduced to rubble and the land sold off to the highest bidder’.

‘Given that the Suzanne Jamieson birthing unit was a private donation made by a local mum to the community in 1993 and has served so many birthing mums over the last two decades, it seems scandalous that the state government and highly-paid local Health officials who are supposed to serve this community, can sanction bulldozing the unit (Chris Crawford’s latest proposal for the site),’ he said.

‘Then sell the land off to the highest real estate bidder on the pretext that there is an asbestos and health issue in the old hospital.

‘The professional building advice I have is that the asbestos is contained in the roof  and plumbing systems of the main hospital building only and can be worked around. It is not a health issue yet.

‘Asbestos is not an issue in the birthing unit. It is not an issue for the Accident and Emergency wing which was built later than the original hospital.

‘The whole hospital building, rather than being levelled to the ground is part of our history as a community and a renovated building could be used for housing old people or the homeless, women on the run from domestic violence, perhaps a drug and alcohol research centre and a small detox unit to help our local youth or who battling with the Ice and other drug epidemic sweeping over us.

‘The hospital’s future should not be left upto the pollies and bureaucrats to decide without community consultation. It is a community asset and should be respected as such,’ Mr Bradbury said.

Peace and tranquility for new mums outside Mullum hospital's popular birthing unity recently. Photo David Bradbury
Peace and tranquility for new mums outside Mullum hospital’s popular birthing unity recently. Photo David Bradbury

Meanwhile, for new parents Sylvia Fenwick and Elias Johnson, were grateful for the Mullum birthing unity services last week after celebrating the birth of their son Aziah.

Sylvia, 25, said she had a happy pregnancy and check ups with her midwife at Mullum birthing unit and went there to give birth.

But complications set in after an extended four-day labour and Sylvia was transferred to the Tweed Hospital where she safely delivered little Aziah.

Her partner Elias Johnson, who grew up in the Mullum area, wanted to bond with his new son and partner but was not allowed to sleep overnight in their room at the big centralised hospital.

‘It was so hard being told by the Tweed hospital staff that I could not stay with Sylvia and Elias after he was born and after what Sylvia had just been through to give birth,’ Elias said.

Sylvia was brought back to the Mullum birthing unit and Elias, as with other dads, was able to stay with his new family each night and give Sylvia the help and support she needed, including good healthy food bought locally in Mullum.

‘I was so happy when we were able to transfer back to Mullum and be together again overnight with family and friends to visit us easily and support us,’ he said.


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