BHAG 2012 AGM – President’s Report

This has been an interesting, challenging & successful term for your BHAG committee.

During this term our Secretary Louise Gore sadly tendered her resignation in March and Gai Stern who has been the Public Officer of our association since its inception has offered her resignation effective as at tonight.  On behalf of the committee I would like to extend my thanks & gratitude to Gai and Louise for the generosity of their time & effort during their active roles on the committee.

We were unable to fill the vacancy of President so I have chaired each meeting & taken on a pseudo Presidential role however Fenella Briscomb joined us to fill a casual vacancy position when Louise resigned.   We have continued to meet monthly and a great deal has occurred & been achieved since the last AGM in June 2011.

I would also like to thank all those who volunteer in the background to directly assist the committee.  In particular David Wallin who continues to maintain the electronic database of BHAG contacts & email’s newsletters & notices at a moment’s notice, Sebastian Syder who maintains the website, Greg McLagan from the Courier Sun who continues to support our activities, Solveig Larsen our resident photographer who captures those special moments as an historical record & Lynne Sanders-Braithwaite who established the save-bellingen-hospital Facebook page  with 3678 members which provides another toolkit for communication between BHAG and the community..

Finally I would like to acknowledge and thank the current committee for the support, advice & encouragement they have given me.  We work well together as a team sharing the work & in particular the role of Secretary over the past months where Rosemary Stephens, Shirley Dunne & Fenella Briscomb have all shared the role of minute secretary.  Pauline Murphy has maintained her true calling in Fund Raising, David Lester as Treasurer who diligently manages the raised funds and Dr Trevor Cheney our medical officer maintaining an open communication link with relevant hospital matters.

The role of your BHAG committee has maintained its focus on the adopted objects of the association:

  1. To reinstate appropriate levels of Maternity, surgical, emergency, acute care and x-ray services for the Bellingen community.
  2. To receive the commitment of relevant government bodies to continue to support Bellingen Hospital and appropriate health services.
  3. To continue and develop the process of consultation about future health care delivery in the local community.

BHAG currently has a contact list of 1358 which is a little less than last year. Some people have moved out of the district, some have changed their email address & sadly some have passed away.

The committee has worked on a number of matters that continue to benefit the future of our public hospital & community health services.  Even though it would appear that the earlier threats of closure and or loss of some essential services are behind us we are still maintaining our voice & ‘squeaky wheel nuisance’ regarding the re-instatement of full Maternity services which due to the lack of Midwives is non- functioning at the moment, expanded Theatre & X-Ray services, the replacement of leaking roofs, the ongoing concern the community has regarding donated equipment and the inappropriate use of Bed 18 in Hartley House to name a few.  So where do I begin.  Some highlights are:

  1. The Hospital Bus was returned to the community (community transport) on the 12th Aug. 2011.
  2. Fundraising – Our Jewellery Raffle raised $3,811 & Harry & Meg Martin’s event on the 22nd Oct. 2011 raised $2986 (Total = $6,797).  Thankyou Harry & Meg & to all who donated & volunteered.  Pauline Murphy was the driving force behind this event – thank you.  Pauline was also instrumental in re-instating the credibility of the IGA Community Benefit scheme (which had gone a little off the rails when management changed) for not only the hospital but all the other groups in Bellingen. Thank you Pauline.
  3. The year was occupied with the new $5million expansion that was the “Worst Kept Secret in Bellingen”.  The DA for the 14 bed Sub Acute Rehabilitation & Palliative Care unit was announced in the C/Sun 30/11/2011 yet we had no official announcement of the Federal funding.  BHAG intervened through Andrew Stoner’s office & on 2/12/2011 & the Minister was forced to announce the funds of $5million.  BHAG held public information meetings at Urunga 14th & Bellingen 19th Dec.  BHAG invited the entire community to write a submission supporting the DA.  This was highly successful – thank you to all.  Work commenced on the 2/10/12 & the expansion works to the ED at a cost of $400,000 will follow the completion of the sub-acute wing.
  4. Arboretum & surrounding bushland: The initial RFS Bush Fire Hazard report was quite ruthless with a 15% maximum canopy rule for the entire hospital site including the Arboretum.  This would have resulted in a massive removal of most of the mature trees throughout the property.  BHAG was consulted & I stood my ground & stated that there were rare native & exotic species that must be preserved in particular the Hottentot Bean (Schotia afra – Drunk Parrot tree). In late June 2012 a new & more intelligent RFS assessment was delivered.  A BSC representative, Wayne Jeffery from the Australian Plant Society & I discussed the report & after a site visit we identified species that must remain.  BSC’s conditions of consent on the 5/7/12 included all our requirements regarding preserving as much of the arboretum & meeting the RFS requirements. The works commenced on the 2/10/12 to remove trees & weeds in the fire hazard zone & yes the Hottentot Bean was not touched & is in full flower at the moment.
  5. BHAG invited Andrew Stoner for an on-site tour on the 9th Feb 2012 to view the work our volunteer gardeners have been doing & view the state of the buildings – in particular the leaking roofs & the poor state of the internal roads & drainage.  We requested funding for a new roof over both Hewitt Block & Hartley House with leaks still present during heavy rain events.  We also requested additional funding in the maintenance budget for both money & extra man power.  After this tour the MNCLHD organised a quote to re-roof & we were advised on the 14th August 2012 that the cost would be $337,000.  Both the NSW State Government & the MNCLHD claim they have no money to undertake these works so BHAG will persist until we have a successful outcome.  BHAG may need to take this to the community to financially supplement any shortfall from the government or health service contributions.  So watch this space!  The CE Stewart Dowrick was in attendance & was keen to showcase to Andrew the proposed new $5million expansion & the $400,000+ expansion to the ED.
  6. The location for the new expansion at the hospital required the removal of some demountable buildings.  Dr Trevor Cheney suggested that they would be a valuable resource for the Bellingen Music Department – in particular the Bellingen Youth Orchestra.  BHAG wrote to the Health Service supporting this initiative.  Initially we liaised with both Health & Bob Stockton from the High School. Once this proposal was adopted we withdrew and after some lengthy & intense negotiation Health offered to pay for the separation & relocation of the buildings to both the Primary & High Schools.  We suspect we may have been instrumental in forcing the hand of Health when they offered to pay for the relocation after we published a quote from Health such that they could not back down on their offer.  BHAG continued to work in the background sourcing Greg Taggart Bricklaying & publishing newsletters to the community informing you of this amazing project.  The relocation commenced on the 28TH of May 2012.  We understand that urgent funds are still required by the schools to refurbish these buildings.
  7. Volunteer Gardening Group continues its amazing work transforming the outside areas of the hospital.  They work well as a team both on the ground & during morning tea when delicious treats are shared.  They are commended on a regular basis & the staff & patients look forward to the ‘Orange Brigade’ visits.  They also keep a watchful eye on the state of the infrastructure & if general gardening maintenance will reduce damage they will attend to it e.g. branches impeding pathways or blocking gutters or tree roots blocking storm water drains.  They even polished the brass plaques at Hartley House.  They also undertake Landcare based work in the bush adjacent to Hartley House.  This year they applied for Bush Regeneration funding. Even though they were unsuccessful they were able to engage the support of both landholders – Bellingen Shire Council and the Dept. of Health.  Though disappointing to not receive the funding they will apply again. This small group of 7 volunteers are now regarded as an integral labour force at the hospital. It is common place for staff to approach them with requests or suggestions for areas that would benefit from some work.  Concepts have been floated by them for feedback & they have been asked to assist with improving the outdoor social areas – in particular Hartley House.  Fenella  maintains a blog site for the gardening activities & will expand on this during her presentation.
  8. BHAG has had 3 face to face meetings with the CE of the MNCLHD Stewart Dowrick – 17th August 2011, 2nd December 2011 and 11th July 2012 (with Warren Grimshaw Chair of the local board in attendance at July meeting).  Some of these meetings have been initiated by the CE. We are most grateful for these opportunities & under the previous CE Chris Crawford this would never have occurred.  Matters discussed included the future of Maternity services, the proposed Sub-acute Ward & Emergency Dept. expansion, donated equipment, leaking roofs, the Mary Faichney bequest for intended development works at Hartley House & our continued intention to install a solar hot water system.  We are waiting on a reply to recent correspondence regarding the on-going leaking roof issue, the promise by the CE to establish a “Local Principle” agreement regarding donated equipment and a new matter of concern – the use of bed 18 in Hartley House which is currently being used as a store room rather than a two bed Isolation and/or Terminal Care ward.  We remain a squeaky wheel.  Stewart Dowrick regularly asks us to change our name to Bellinger Health Support Group & we respond with – NO.  We are an action group who acts, we are pro-active and not a soft touch ‘support group’.  He would also like us to dispose of our ‘SOS Bellingen Hospital bumper stickers’ however while there are still services that are not provided we will insist on proudly displaying them.  We do however enjoy a new healthy & transparent open communication working relationship with the senior management of the MNCLHD
  9. 9. Governance Matters:

(a)    BHAG now has an ABN 63 011 027 145 effective 20th April 2012 & a TFN 935 675 069 issued 9th May 2012. With the issue of a TFN new issues arose re tax return liability.  We consulted Emillie Reynolds our pro bono solicitor in August who has graciously advised us on these matters.  An ABN enables us to apply for grants.  It also provides a means where we can establish ourselves as a “Not for Profit Community Service Organisation” & “Self Assess” our income tax obligations.

(b)   This advice led to further consultation with Emillie on the 12th September regarding the validity of the BHAG membership.

(c)   We commenced discussions in June on up-dating our constitution to adopt the current 2009 Fair Trading constitution.  This will provide an opportunity to include:

  • The objects of BHAG
  • Self-assessment of Income Tax
  • Qualify BHAG as a “not for profit community Service Organisation” by inserting a Non-profit clause (‘The assets and income of the organisation shall be applied solely in furtherance of its above-mentioned objects and no portion shall be distributed directly or indirectly to the members of the organisation except as bona fide compensation for services rendered or expenses incurred on behalf of the organisation.’ & a Dissolution clause to qualify (‘In the event of the organisation being dissolved, the amount that remains after such dissolution and the satisfaction of all debts and liabilities shall be transferred to another organisation with similar purposes which is not carried on for the profit or gain of its individual members.’)
  • Define two levels of membership – financial members with voting rights and friends of BHAG (no voting rights)
  • Define the required method of contact – email and public notice – not postal.
  • Any other clauses that the members may believe require amendment

(d)   To that end we commend the incoming committee contact all persons on the BHAG contact list & invite all interested persons to a Special General Meeting to be held in early December (an application form for formal membership will be attached)

  1. Other matters:

(a)    The new 2012 committee toured the hospital on the 16th Aug 2011 with Kath Boman (the then Acting EO/DON)

(b)   The EO/DON position was finalised in January 2012 with Kath Boman permanently appointed to the position of EO/DON Bellingen & Macksville hospitals.  BHAG had been watching that situation for a number of years with so many senior executive positions being held in an ‘acting role’.  We could not be directly involved with this matter but our active gardening presence at the hospital gave hope to the staff that the community was still supporting them during that grey time.

(c)    The committee commenced discussions on the opportunities to establish a Community Health Centre.

(a)    We provided advice to the ‘Save the Coraki & District Campbell Hospital Committee’ on how they could force Chris Crawford their CE to reopen it after the roof was storm damaged & he closed it down.  We believe it has now reopened as a rehabilitation centre serving Lismore Base Hospital.

(d)   We spoke to a local business women’s group during a hospital fundraising evening at No. 2 Oak Street. The topic was an ‘Inspirational insight of the history of Bellingen hospital’.

(e)   We have established a link with the “Department of Corrective Services rehabilitation program for low offenders” that provides supervised labour assistance for volunteer based project works.

  1. The Future Role & Activities of BHAG – We commend the following to the incoming committee:


  • Physical Environment of the hospital – Gardens & ‘Landcare’ work/grants
  • BHAG Constitution/Tax status & membership
  • Pressure re Arboretum and the Roof
  • Pressure re Maternity Services
  • Pressure re Bed 18 in Hartley House
  • Research/discussions re Solar Hot Water etc.


  • Physical Environment
  • ‘Landcare’ grants
  • Fundraising for roof +/- other projects at the hospital
  • Engaging ‘Medicare Locals’ in the Mid North Coast ( i.e. a Community Health Centre)
  • Maternity services model

Possible achievements during this period:

  • New Wing
  •  Maternity
  •  Roof
  • Solar Hot Water
  • Arboretum & Gardens
  • ED expansion
  • Faichney Bequest
  • Bed 18 recommissioned as a functioning ward


  • Community Based Healthcare enhancements such as Medicare Locals (refer above)

Barbara Moore – Vice President BHAG Inc. 17th October 2012