Meeting with health officials – shifting sands, and no answers to key questions

Save Bulli ED Group

Media release : 23 August 2012    Bulli ED 2012/#12

Meeting with health officials – shifting sands, and no answers to key questions

Members of Save Bulli Hospital Emergency Department Group (Save Bulli ED Group) met today with health officials from the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD).

Save Bulli ED Group asked searching questions about the future of Bulli Hospital Emergency, but very few answers were forthcoming.

Recently, in the face of massive public opposition, the health district had dropped the “Urgent Care Centre” proposal for Bulli Emergency Department. The latest draft health service plan had no mention of this term.

The community had hoped this meant a shift in thinking. “We had all really hoped that the health district had changed its mind. Based on their letter to the Mercury on 15 August, we thought plans to downgrade Bulli Emergency Department had been replaced by a commitment to retain the service at its current standing of a Level 2 Emergency Department in the NSW Health network, albeit at reduced hours,” said Caroline Colton, co-convenor of Save Bulli ED Group.

“But we found it was just a change of name. They still want to downgrade it. It’s so very disappointing,” said Caroline.

The only shift by the ISLHD was to rename their proposed model.  Michelle Noort from the ISLHD said at the meeting, “The community has made it clear they won’t accept the term ‘Urgent Care Centre’ …. so we are now calling it ‘Emergency Primary Health Care’.”

“The health district was still unable to explain how this plan would impact on the community,” said Caroline. “There was no detail. We asked if both doctors and nurses would be present. We asked what kind of treatment would be available. But they couldn’t tell us. So with a submission due on 31 August, we will just have to respond in a very broad way as there has been no detail given at all.”

“As a community group we had hoped to take the details of what is planned, for example what level of service will operate at Bulli, back to our community,” said Caroline. “But we don’t know any more than before.”

On the positive side, further statistical data on ED presentations was provided by the ISHLD to the Save Bulli ED Group who will now work on analysing that data and prepare submissions on behalf of the community.

“We are preparing a submission on the Illawarra Shoalhaven Healthcare Services Plan by 31 August. We have also been invited to submit directly to the ISHLD Board by mid September,” said Caroline. “We do appreciate these opportunities to put forward the community perspective and will argue to retain the E.D. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

Denise Farrier of Austinmer agreed. “At the end of the day we need to maintain the Emergency Department we already have and plan for its upgrade to meet the needs of our kids and their kids,” she said. Denise is one of many to join the fight since the Save Bulli ED Rally on 29 July.


Media contacts:     

Ms Caroline Colton, Co-convenor
Ms Alison Fettell, Convenor

Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District’s Healthcare Services Plan 2012-2022 can be found at


Media Stories generated :

Illawarra News : Save Bulli ED Meets with Health Officials – still no answers to key questions

ABC Radio Illawarra : Bulli Hospital talks continue

The Bulli Times : A rose by another name ? The Battle for Bulli ED continues


“We’re trying again!” – residents to meet with senior health official in an effort to clarify plans for Bulli before community comments due

Save Bulli ED Group

Media release : 22 August 2012    Bulli ED 2012/#11

“We’re trying again!” – residents to meet with senior health official in an effort to clarify plans for Bulli before community comments due

Tomorrow, Save Bulli Hospital Emergency Department Group (Save Bulli ED Group) will meet senior health bureaucrat Michelle Noort to seek assurances on the future of Bulli Emergency Department. The Save Bulli ED Group hopes to find out enough detail to enable the community to respond to the draft Illawarra Shoalhaven Healthcare Services Plan for Bulli. Public comments on the plan are due by 31 August.

“We were extremely pleased to read in Prof Denis King’s letter to the Mercury that he was now committed to retaining emergency services at Bulli Hospital,” said Caroline Colton, co-convenor of Save Bulli ED group. “That’s a major breakthrough. Up until the day of the public rally to support the hospital, the health district was proposing an urgent care centre (UCC) at the Bulli ED site. It is a tribute to the Illawarra community that all references to a UCC have now been completely removed from the latest health plan.”

Community resistance to reducing emergency services in the Northern Illawarra has been strong and unrelenting. The community has rejected anything short of maintaining the current 24-hour, 7 days a week, Level 2 Emergency Department. Over 500 people braved the winter winds to attend a protest rally in late July, over 12,000 people signed a petition organised by Ryan Park and many residents from all over the Illawarra have written letters to local newspapers and members of parliament.

At a recent meeting with Prof Denis King and MP Lee Evans, Save Bulli ED were offered a further small concession on opening hours. Previously, the health district wanted to cut the present 24 hour service to 8 am to 8 pm, but the health district has now mooted a slight extension of 7 am to 10 pm.

“While it looks like the health district is giving a little ground, there are several unanswered questions,” Caroline said. “We need answers, so that the community can respond to this ‘Plan’:”

  1. We have heard on the grapevine that it won’t be called an ‘Emergency Department’. But if it is truly an emergency service, why wouldn’t it be called an ‘Emergency Department’? Is something less than the current Level 2 Emergency Department intended?
  2. What will the staffing be? Will it be both doctors and nurses? We need both to adequately staff Bulli Emergency Department!
  3. Has the community been heard on the issue of opening hours? We need 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Accidents can, and do, happen at any time!
  4. Where is the 2012 triage data for Bulli E.D.? Why has this been withheld?


Media contacts:         

Ms Caroline Colton, Co-convenor
Ms Alison Fettell, Convenor

Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District’s draft Healthcare Services Plan 2012-2022 can be found at


Media Stories generated :

The Bulli Times : Battle for Bulli’s emergency department gains momentum

Full transcript of August 16 2012 NSW Parliament Hansard including Bulli Hospital

Fighting for Bulli Hospital Emergency Department at NSW Parliament House with Ryan Park MP for Keira

Full transcript of August 16 2012 NSW Parliamentary Hansard including Bulli Hospital upgrade debate in NSW Parliament Legislative Assembly :

Extract from Hansard covering Bulli Hospital Debate only :

Fighting for Bulli Hospital Emergency Department – outside NSW Parliament House with Dr John Kay – MLC – The Greens

Read who said what :

  • Ryan Park
  • Lee Evans
  • Noreen Hay
  • Gareth Ward
  • Andrew McDonald

Acknowledgement to Bevan Shields for providing link to Hansard to Save Bulli ED


Fighting for Bulli Hospital Emergency Department to be kept open 24 x 7 x 365 days / year

“You tell them, Ryan! – Bulli Emergency Department must be saved!”

Save Bulli ED Group logo

Save Bulli ED Group

 Media release : 14 August 2012    Bulli ED 2012/#10

“You tell them, Ryan! – Bulli Emergency Department must be saved!”

On Thursday 16 August at 3:30 pm, Save Bulli Hospital Emergency Department Group (Save Bulli ED Group) will be on the spot in NSW State Parliament, protesting outside and then watching closely as the debate on the future of Bulli Hospital unfolds.

The debate in the lower house was instigated by Ryan Park, member for Keira, who gathered 10,000 signatures from concerned residents in support of increased funding.

“I don’t know if they’ll let us show our Save Bulli ED placards in Parliament,” said Alison Fettell, Save Bulli ED Convenor, “but we’ll be there in the public gallery, urging our politicians to LISTEN to the community on this issue!”

Over the last week more reports have emerged about the great need for a fully functioning Emergency Department at Bulli Hospital. There have been heart-wrenching stories about major incidents up in the north that required immediate life saving care, as well as reports about the life-threatening bottle neck that is Wollongong Emergency Department.

“The community in the northern Illawarra has the Bulli Emergency Department that is capable of saving lives and taking the burden off Wollongong. Why should we lose this essential service?” said Ms Fettell. “We will continue to fight to ensure this service is maintained to an appropriate level and kept open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” she said.

The Save Bulli ED Group is making representations to all level of government and across all political persuasions in the hope that common sense prevails. “Our meeting with our elected representative Lee Evans was disappointing,” said Ms Fettell. “He would not commit himself to supporting his southern constituents on this critical issue.”

Representatives of the Save Bulli ED Group will protest on the steps of State Parliament at 3.30 pm on Thursday 16 August to make their voices heard before Ryan Park has his debate on Bulli Hospital on the floor of Parliament at 4 pm.

“All residents are welcome to join us on the steps of Parliament.” Alison said.


Media contacts:

Ms Alison Fettell, Convenor
Ms Kerrie Anne Christian, Co-convenor


Note  – The Save Bulli ED Group formally submitted the community’s six resolutions to Lee Evans, member for Heathcote at his offices in Engadine, on Thursday 9th August.

The six resolutions, which were agreed on at a packed rally of over 500 people in Bulli Masonic Hall, had a strong focus on the community’s demand for the retention of the 24 hour, 7 day a week doctor-led Emergency Department at Bulli Hospital.


Media Stories generated :

Illawarra Mercury : The fight for Bulli’s after hours heats up

Illawarra Mercury : Family in plea to save Bulli Hospital

Illawarra Mercury : What’s next in battle for Bulli ED?

Wave FM News : Skinner a no-show for Bulli Hospital debate

The Bulli Times : Battle for Bulli Hospital goes to Macquarie St

Event : Hospital 10,000 Signature Petition Debate – NSW Parliament – August 16 2012

Event Notification : Time to show support for Bulli Hospital ! Bring those placards along to NSW Parliament House to the Debate on the 10,000 signature petition on Bulli Hospital :

Where – at NSW Parliament Macquarie St Sydney

When – Thursday August 16 2012 at 3.30pm.

Local Supporters at Bulli Hospital – May 2012

Ryan Park, MP for Keira,  initiated the petition with NSW ALP Opposition Leader John Robertson in September 2011. By April 2012  10,000 signatures had been collected. The petition calls for support for upgrading Bulli Hospital as follows :

Bulli Hospital needs urgent upgrading to improve and expand services. Failure to improve these vital services will result in a reduced level of health care available to residents.

The undersigned petitioners ask that services at Bulli Hospital be upgraded and improved for the local community.

Save Bulli ED is encouraging Northern Suburbs residents to rally outside the NSW Parliament On august 16 2012 at 3.30pm – with placards of support for Bulli  hospital.

Prior to the Debate in the Parliament, it is hoped that Bulli Hospital supporters will be able to speak outside Parliament House with Lee Evans MP for Heathcote, Ryan Park MP for Keira, John Kay NSW  Greens MLC and Drew Simmons NSW State President Australian Democrats & Candidate for Heffron.

The Petition goes beyond the current campaign being waged to Save Bulli Hospital Emergency Department from being downgraded, by the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District Board, to an Urgent Care Centre open from 7am-10pm only.

Community Resolutions on Bulli ED Presented to Member for Heathcote

Save Bulli ED Group logo

Save Bulli ED Group

 Media release : 10 August 2012    Bulli ED 2012/#9

The Save Bulli ED Group formally submitted the community’s six resolutions to Lee Evans, member for Heathcote at his offices in Engadine, on Thursday 9th August.

The six resolutions, which were agreed on at a packed rally of over 500 people in Bulli Masonic Hall, had a strong focus on the community’s demand for the retention of the 24 hour, 7 day a week doctor-led Emergency Department currently operating at Bulli Hospital.

Lee Evans’ response to our representation was to state that, “Bulli is run down and needs a lot of money to bring it up to scratch.”

Convenor of Save Bulli ED Alison Fettell quickly offered her support to Mr Evans’ stating, “We’re on your side, we want to fight with you to get more money for Bulli and its ED”.

“Mr Evans”, she said “ if you could communicate this need to state Health Minister Jillian Skinner, you would have our wholehearted support.” However, Lee Evans was doubtful as to whether he could ask for money. “You are our state member and we expect you to represent our community’s interests,” she urged.

Save Bulli ED’s Caroline Colton & Alison Fettell outside Lee Evans Electorate Office in Engadine

Also in attendance at the meeting, on the invitation of Mr Evans, was Professor King the Chair of the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD).

When Alison Fettell asked Professor King “if you were to receive dedicated funding to upgrade Bulli ED, will you confirm to us today that you will make that upgrade happen?”  The Professor’s response was non committal.

The Save Bulli ED Group were assured, at the meeting, that the service that will be provided at the Bull ED site will be free to the public “I have never ever indicated that it would be anything other than a fully funded public service,” said Professor King.

Professor King also gave ground on opening hours. At a presentation to the community on March 19th this year, ISLHD indicated that their proposed Urgent Care Centre would operate from 8 am to 8 pm. But at yesterday’s meeting, he offered a slightly extended model with opening hours from 7am -10pm.  This adds an additional three hours to the original proposal, a small but important win. That leaves only NINE HOURS TO GO to secure a 24 hour service,” said Caroline Colton, co-convenor of Save Bulli ED.


Community Resolutions from July 29 2012 Public Rally at Bulli Masonic Hall


Media contacts:

Ms Alison Fettell, Convenor
Ms Caroline Colton, Co-convenor


Media Stories generated :

The Bulli Times : Evans presented community’s demands on Bulli Hospital

The Bulli Times : No support for Bulli’s ED at this stage : Heathcote MP

Interview – Dr Jacky Davis shares UK experiences of attacks on public hospitals & NHS with Save Bulli ED supporters in Australia

Dr Jacky Davis, is a strong advocate of the UK NHS Public Health System which is currently under attack (see people’s comments). Save Bulli ED Co-convenor, Caroline Colton, interviewed Dr Davis as part of her presentation :  “I just can’t get my head around this” to the Save Bulli ED Public Rally on July 29 2012.

Dr Jacky Davis – passionately fighting for UK NHS public health system


1.  Jacky – what is going on in the health care system that citizens have very little awareness of?


All healthcare systems are under strain because of aging populations, bigger range of more costly treatments, increased expectations. We all face these problems, but combined with global financial difficulties, they are being used as an excuse to undermine traditional health care systems. Those systems that are publicly funded are particularly attractive to transnational corporations who want to get their hands on billions of public money . They see our systems as the pearl in the oyster if only they can prise it open. So publicly funded systems everywhere – UK, Canada, Australia – are being targetted by these companies. Politicians can’t do this up front as our health systems are popular with voters so they dress it up with words like patients choice, increased efficiency, as well as threats about the problems we face, saying we simply cant go on like this. In fact the biggest problem we face  is the onslaught by the private sector who are turning efficient and cost effective public services into fragmented and expensive private services with profits going to share holders instead of back into front line care


2. Is awareness growing through local people fighting for their district hospitals and Accident & Emergency Departments (A&E’s) in particular?


Politicians have been very careful about how they presented these developments to the public, dressed up as being better for patients,more efficient and  innovative and so on so naturally it has taken a while to understand what is being done in our name. In the UK private corporations like Virgin operate behind the logo of the our National health Service so patients dont even know their care is now being delivered by these transnationals. But when people see their local services under threat then they understand what they are about to to lose and these local campaigns are very important. And through local campaings people see the  bigger picture and thats how national campaigns begin


3. How does privatisation affect doctors?

We can only predict what will happen to doctors as the process is just getting underway here. As private companies take over the public service health workers including  doctorss are being seconded to these companies with loss, in the long term of their national T&Cs and pension schemes. At the same time core treatments, which have always been free, are being reduced and doctors are being set targets about how many patients they can refer to hospital, asked to reduce their consultation times and so on, in other words interference with their clinical judgements. We dont know yet whether we will end up like the US system where so much of doctors time is taken up with paper work and fighting for their patients right to have treatment.


4. In Australia, hospitals run by local autonous community boards have been put forward as an alternative model to hospitals managed by the health bueaucracy – what has happened to hospitals in England who have followed this model?


Hospitals in England have been forced to become autonomous Foundation trusts, whose only duty is to balance the books. Many are already in financial difficulties, crippled by the debts of PPP (Public Private Partnership) projects forced on them by politicians, These PPP contracts have proved a disaster, we pay 10 x the value of  what the public sector gets, and hospitals are simply crushed by their debts. Three have recently gone into receivership and we have no idea what will happen to the staff and patients. At the same time these hospitals now have to compete with each other which makes it very difficult to exercise the traditional cooperation which benefitted patients


5. What are the implications for national health planning and things like preventative medicine when corporations like SERCO takeover health services?


We’re very concerned about large contracts being awarded to companies like Serco and Virgin whose core business is winning government contracts. They then have to put together the package, perhaps with no previous experience. Weve seen community services including childrens services awarded to these companies, and they have little or no experience in these fields. And of course if they fail they will have to be bailed out just like the banks because you can’t let public services fail, they aren’t like mobile phone companies. It really is a case of privatise the profits and socialise the risks, we’re seeing it here already. As for joined up thinking about long term  planning and public health, that looks as though it will be another casualty. How can it be otherwise when the health service is now all about competition – you need collaboration not competition in order to plan for population health and that’s exactly what we won’t have now


6. What is your message for the people of the Illawarra? (in a brief statement)


My message from our campaign to yours is to fight locally but think nationally. Its really important to fight for local services, the people who make these decisions which destroy our public services get where they are via the ballot box and we can get rid of them in the same way. At the same time this is a national and international issue, we’re all facing this vandalism and privatisation of our public services and we need to work together.  We must alert the public to the threat, persuade people that we can fight this, its a political and ideological decision to privatise and outsource public serives.
I wish you the best of luck with your fight, we will win because we can’t afford to fail.

Caroline Colton Save Bulli ED Co Convenor : “I just can’t get my head around this” – featuring contributions from UK’s Dr Jacky Davis

Thanks to Dr Jacky Davis for sharing these thoughts with the supporters of Save Bulli Emergency Department

You can follow Dr Jacky Davis on Twitter for more information on threats to the UK NHS system – and see how it compares to our Australian experiences.

Fighting to Save Bulli Hospital Emergency Department

I just can’t get my head around this – Public Rally video on Vimeo – Caroline C

Caroline Colton’s presentation, to the Public Rally (July 29 2012), on threats to Bulli ED & privatisation fears : “I just can’t get my head around this!” (seen here on  Vimeo film)  – simply unforgettable & an amazingly insightful analysis.

Caroline, a Save BulliED Co-convenor,  showed the state of health facilities in the Northern Illawarra – as it is currently and with various scenarios

– daytime & after hours

– with Bulli Hospital Emergency Department open

– and with the ED replaced by an Urgent Care Centre operating only 8am-8pm

Save Bulli ED representatives had been advised by the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District that an Urgent Care Centre would be based around the USA model.

So Caroline set about investigating just what happens in the health system in the USA – from the impressive & huge Texas Health Centre to the Mash style set-ups in sports stadiums.  At that point of her presentation, the audience were left open-mouthed, almost in disbelief  at what they saw on a video clip of the USA’s RAM (Remote Area Medical) system for the economically disadvantaged. This is a voluntary effort, in cities such as Los Angeles, which was almost overwhelmed by the thousands that turned up.

Caroline also shared how the USA spends more % per capita on health than any other nation, including Australia and yet its health outcomes are no better, in fact even worse than some OECD countries, in terms of life expectancy (see comments on US Health Issues including Public-Private Debate).

After listening to this comprehensive review – the question you have to ask :

Why follow a USA model for Urgent Care Centres when it is widely recognised,  across the political spectrum in the USA, that their health system is failing ?

A brilliant presentation which opened our eyes.

We also just can’t get our heads around it either, Caroline !

Also see news clip of the rally on Facebook: at  SCLC’s  page – and rally photos on Facebook.

Also from Caroline – some YouTube clips of the USA RAM – Remote Area Medical programs operating in US sports stadiums :

Save Bulli Hospital E.D. Public Rally Stakes out a Mandate – also Community Resolutions

Save Bulli ED Group logo

Save Bulli ED Group

 Media release : 31 July 2012    Bulli ED 2012/#8

Well there’s no doubt that last Sunday’s Public Rally to Save Bulli Hospital Emergency Department has clearly staked out a public mandate for its continued existence.

“It was so inspiring to see so many people, even hundreds of people turn out to Save Bulli Hospital Emergency Department,” stated SaveBulliED Convenor Alison Fettell, “early on we had hoped to get even 50 people in winter – but to get over 500 was fantastic!”

In fact people had started to queue up over 30 minutes before the rally was due to kick off. Some brought their own signs and photographs to show what Bulli Hospital and its Emergency Department meant to them. And they came in wheelchairs, on walking frames, walking sticks, on motorized scooters and in prams. While many were elderly, there were young parents with their babies too. Many shared heartfelt stories during the rally of how their own lives, and their loved ones, had been saved by the dedicated and hardworking staff at Bulli Hospital ED.

Various speakers presented the case for the existence of a Public Hospital Emergency Department at Bulli. A key issue was the ISLHD’s Urgent Care Centre based on USA models which ISLHD head Professor Denis King presented at earlier public meetings. At this meeting, Professor King faced a largely hostile and unreceptive audience.

“Our Co-Convenor Caroline Colton had maps showing the almost toatla lack the community dumbstruck as she showed video footage of the USA Health System for the poor – in virtual ‘cattle pens’ at sport stadiums,” explained Ms Fettell, “not to mention her maps showing the almost total lack of after- hours health resources in the northern suburbs under an Urgent Care Centre model concept.”

The community knew that all too often the one rostered northern Ambulance is down in Wollongong and not actually in the North. So claims by Health bureaucrats of a 10 minute trip to Wollongong ED down the Northern Distributor was considered totally spurious and ingenous.

Four resolutions were put to the community – and the community added on another couple (see attached). But the key message from the Community was they wanted to see Bulli Emergency Department kept open 24 hours day, 365 days a year without charge.

Now the Community is set to take the fight to politicians at all levels of Government : Federal, State and Local. The 10,000 signature petition for Bulli Hospital, taken up by Keira MP Ryan Park, is due to be debated in the NSW Parliament on August 16 2012 (approximately 4pm).

“They will hear us Roar!” emphasized Ms Fettell, “And we will not be silenced.”


The community at the Save Bulli Hospital Emergency Department Rally (Save Bulli ED) held on 29th July 2012 resolved that:

1. The following model be endorsed as the community’s preferred model of care for the Bulli Emergency Department situated in Hospital Road Bulli:

2.  We demand that the model endorsed by the community in resolution one be adopted by the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District and that a dedicated recurrent budget be made available by current and future governments to sufficiently resource (including doctors and nurses) this model.

3.  A community-based board be re-established to oversee the running of Bulli Hospital and the Bulli Hospital Emergency Department

4.  The Consumer Advisory Committee for Bulli Hospital be reinvigorated and their terms of reference strengthened to allow for greater input into decisions made regarding service provision and patient care at Bulli Hospital.

5.  The Bulli District Hospital, including its Emergency Department, be refurbished or rebuilt whilst maintaining or upgrading all services.

6.  Everyone present at the Rally today commits to continued action by spreading the word via all avenues open to them regarding the need to keep Bulli Emergency Department open 24 x7, and to support further action to ensure all levels of government heed and respond favourably to the resolutions agreed on by the community today.


Media contacts:

Ms Alison Fettell, Convenor
Ms Kerrie Anne Christian, Co-convenor