Petitions seek hospital funding

Petitions are being circulated throughout the Byron Shire this week urging the NSW Government and the NSW Opposition to commit funding to the proposed new Byron Shire central hospital at Ewingsdale.

The petitions will be available in retail outlets, libraries, doctors’ surgeries, hotels and clubs.

Tony McCabe from the Byron Shire Health Services Community Action Group (BSHSCAG) said that every member of the community, as well as visitors to the shire during the holiday season, could play a role in seeing the hospital become a reality by signing one of the petitions.

“We need to display a unity from across the shire to secure better health services so that we can look after our own, closer to home,” he said.

The group has expressed its deep disappointment and frustration at the NSW Government’s failure to include the proposed hospital as a priority project for the Commonwealth Government to consider under the recent Regional Priority Funding Round of the Health and Hospitals Fund (HHF).

New South Wales Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt recently informed Ballina MP Don Page that the proposed new hospital had not been included on a priority list for Federal funding.

Mrs Rae Cooper from the action group said the group recently met with representatives from the North Coast Area Health Service (NCAHS) to explore options for keeping the community informed and involved leading up to the State Government elections in March.

“It was decided to urge the NCAHS to press ahead with documentation in readiness for the next round of Federal funding through the Health and Hospitals Fund,” Mrs Cooper said.

“It is vitally important that we keep pressure on the State Government to support this project and commit funding for the construction of the proposed hospital at Ewingsdale as a matter of urgency.

“We will be calling on each of the candidates for the Ballina electorate to declare publicly their support and commitment to seeing this project to fruition.”

The land for the new hospital was purchased two years ago, and the centralised ambulance station has been funded and is being relocated to the site early in 2011.

Mrs Cooper said there had been a long-standing stated commitment from the State Government to construct the hospital on the greenfield site to replace both Byron District Hospital and Mullumbimby War Memorial Hospital, thus providing a higher level and broader range of services to meet the current and future health needs of a rapidly growing and  ageing population.

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