Save Bulli ED Group
Media release : 9 July 2012 Bulli ED 2012/#4
Community members who have been angered by a tick-the-box “consultation” by the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD) have organised their own rally to save the Bulli Hospital Emergency Department.
The Save Bulli ED Public Rally on July 29 will offer the opportunity for community members to have a say, raise THEIR concerns and join a movement to demand funding to upgrade Bulli Emergency Department. The rally will be held:
2 for 2:30 pm on Sunday 29th July
Bulli Masonic Hall
286 Princes Highway Bulli (opposite Shell)
A sausage sizzle will be held at 2 pm prior to the meeting
Live music provided by the Swingaleles
The Save Bulli Hospital Emergency Department Group (Save Bulli ED Group) expect a large crowd to the rally, as the closure or downgrading suggested by Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD) has caused an outcry in the Northern Illawarra. Over 10,000 people have signed a petition opposing the move.
Community members have expressed their concern about the fate of older people, battlers and young families in the Northern Illawarra community who rely on Bulli Hospital Emergency Department. They say many retired miners and older members of original families in the area are struggling to survive on pensions.
“If you have a low income or you’re on the pension there is no way you can afford a $30 to $40 cab fare to Wollongong Hospital. Unless your condition is critical enough for an ambulance, what they’re saying is that if you don’t drive you’re stuck, you’re on your own,” said convenor Alison Fettell.
The rally will be held at Bulli Masonic Hall, a historically significant venue for the Northern Illawarra. In May 1890, the first meeting to plan Bulli Hospital was held in that very same hall. At that meeting, the community including coal miners and local employers agreed to raise the money. Bulli Hospital was built a few years later and continued to expand as the population grew.
“They had the vision back then, and they left us a legacy of a hospital that has served us for over a hundred years. Let’s not waste it now because some health bureaucrat has a fad for restructuring,” said Alison.
The NSW government is currently in the process of closing or downgrading dozens of hospitals across the state, threatening to leave many communities without emergency services. The NSW Health drive to centralise hospital services is forcing distressed residents to travel to busy, larger hospitals which are often overstretched and understaffed. For elderly and poorer members of communities who have no car and can’t afford expensive taxi fares, this has become a heinous situation that virtually abandons the concept of community health care and community hospitals.
An ISLHD proposal for an alternative service, based on a model for an Urgent Care Centre which has not yet been released, has also been rejected by the community.
“I’m really angry that they want to downgrade or close Bulli Emergency Department and open something called an ‘Urgent Care Centre’. Our group has reviewed the service model of so-called alternatives to emergency departments in Victoria and the ACT,” said Alison.
“We found that many charge exorbitant fees, won’t treat babies, won’t treat serious asthma attacks, can’t handle snake bites, will handle some fractures but not others, won’t handle severe gastric pain and usually close at 8 or 10 pm at night,” she explained. “These centres AREN’T for urgent care AT ALL, they are basically GPs with slightly extended hours and maybe an extra piece of equipment or two. It’s not good enough.”
The rally in July will invite broad representation from the community, and is expected to reiterate resident demands that:
- Bulli Hospital Emergency Department should remain open as a Level 2 Emergency Department, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- emergency services should remain in public hands and be free to the public
- a community board to manage the hospital should be reinstated
- the state government should stop closing and downgrading emergency services.
Ms Alison Fettell, Convenor
Ms Caroline Colton, Co-convenor