BHAG News – December 2012

The new 2012/13 Committee elected at the AGM on the 17th of October 2012 is:

Public Officer – Rosemary Stephens; President – Barbara Moore; Vice President – David Lester; Secretary – Fenella Briscomb; Treasurer – Rosie Falloon; Committee – Shirley Dunne, Pauline Murphy and Kari Winer.  Our Consultant VMO (Visiting Medical Officer) is Dr Cain English.

The outgoing committee is to be congratulated for their work & commitment over their past term & on their behalf I wish to congratulate all those on the new committee.  Thank you to Gai Stern who has been our Public Officer since incorporation was established in 2010.  Thank you to Dr Trevor Cheney who has been our consultant VMO for the past 2+ years & Louise Gore our Secretary for the past 2 years.

More details of the AGM will be available shortly on the website.

We will shortly be contacting all our supporters to invite you to participate in some important governance matters.  We need to review our constitution to enable BHAG Inc. to be registered as a Not for Profit Community Service Organisation with Self – Assessment of Income Tax. This requires a Special General Meeting that will be held at the end of February 2013 (date TBA).  Advice was sought from our solicitor Emillie Reynolds & to enable these changes we need to establish a two tier membership where you can either become a financial member with voting rights or a non-financial member  – ‘Friend of BHAG Inc.’ with no voting rights.  A further recommendation will be regarding advising our membership of important notices: We would like to preserve our donated funds.  It would be preferable to use Email, or Newspaper editorials, or Public Notice Boards, or a blog/website or all four thus minimising costs.  Printing & the use of Australia post is expensive & we will be asking you to vote on this amendment in the constitution.

The roofs at the hospital continue to leak during heavy rain events (common in Bellingen) & at this meeting we will be asking you to consider the use of some of the current funds raised to go towards re-roofing.  The committee’s understanding of the purpose of fundraising was to service a “Fighting Fund” and “Re-roofing”.  Even though we are past the critical stage of the potential loss of our hospital though continue our “fight” to re-instate many of the lost or reduced services such as Maternity & X-ray, the costs BHAG may incur to negotiate the restoration of these services to their full status is minimal.  We are however left with major infrastructure maintenance failings.  Both the NSW State Government & the Local Health District Governing Board have not committed when asked to finance this work with a definite ‘Yes’.  The cost to re-roof is only $337,000 out of a $457 million annual budget to run the Mid North Coast Local Health District. Further fundraising may be required.

I recently attended the Governing Board’s annual public meeting.  I had emailed the following 4 questions ‘on notice’:

  1. I am interested in hearing the Board’s plans regarding the results/recommendations of the External Independent Review of Maternity services recently conducted for the Local Health District.  Naturally I am interested in hearing what the plans are for Bellingen Hospital. The CE Stewart Dowrick’s response was that the results of the review have just been received & we are progressing through the recommendations. So still no firm commitment regarding the future of Maternity Services at Bellingen.  In the meantime the Maternity unit is closed as it is occupied by some Allied Health Services during construction of the new 14 sub-acute bed ward.
  2. Maintenance of infrastructure continues to remain a low priority in the overall budget.  The recent discovery of substantial white ant damage at Bellingen Hospital is testament to that.  Two beds/wards & their bathrooms have been closed for some weeks to enable a complete restoration of that part of the building damaged. This will impact on the hospital’s ability to provide appropriate health services in that area.  This rebuild will cost substantially more money than thorough & timely maintenance.  The same may be the case regarding the leaking roof(s) at Bellingen Hospital.  A recent letter I received from Andrew Stoner MP of the 13th September 2012 advised me that the ‘Leaking’ roof(s) project for Bellingen ‘remains a Priority’ for the Board.  My question is:  How high on the list of priorities does this project sit and do the Board have any intention to replace the roof(s) and if so when?  One hopes that it will not be left too late! The CE Stewart Dowrick’s response was that re-roofing is complex & there are certain matters that need to be considered. So no commitment to re-roof!  All I asked for was a simple ‘YES’ we will be re-roofing. One promising fact stated was that $2.1million was the budget this year for minor works & equipment which is an increase from the earlier budget of only $600,000.
  3. The Board manages to find funds to address urgent maintenance matters when they arise yet there is no long term plan in the budget to prevent unscheduled urgent matters.  If funds are available to rebuild the white ant damaged beds/wards, do you have the funds to re-roof before it becomes an urgent matter?  It remains an OHS & fire hazard issue with every heavy rain event.  No Comment. This question was not tabled & therefore not addressed!
  4. I believe that the scheduled expansion & upgrade of the Emergency Department at Bellingen will commence in February 2013 (earlier than we had been advised).  Have the plans been finalised for this project?  We would like to inform our community of this project as soon as possible before rumours commence.  The ED is a touchy subject with us as not that long ago it was scheduled to be closed from 11pm to 7am.  Any works observed by visitors may be misinterpreted.   Yes work is expected to commence ahead of schedule in February 2013 whilst trades are on-site & completed by June 2013. This is good news.  BHAG expects to bring you more information in the new- year.

I then asked a final question without notice:  X-Ray services at Bellingen are limited.  A Radiographer is on-site from Sundays to Fridays (9am-3pm) & there is no on-call service outside those hours.  What could be the busiest time of the week – Friday night to Sunday early morning has no service available.  Would the Board investigate the re-instatement of an on-call X-Ray service at Bellingen? Dr Theresa Beswick’s response was that any urgent presentation would be more appropriately managed at Coffs Base where Orthopaedic specialists are on site. I was requested to write a letter to the Board.  I agreed & then reinforced my request to the Board to investigate this matter.

The new building works are progressing rapidly at the hospital & the expansion/upgrade of the Emergency department though long overdue is finally to be a reality.  The planned extension to Hartley House from Mary Faichney’s bequest is still on the ‘drawing board’ but will proceed hopefully in the not too distant future.  However the roof’s still leak on the existing buildings!

The BHAG volunteer gardening group continue their amazing work (2 & 1/2years now) with new beautiful exotic & native gardens established & bush regeneration challenges on the boundaries.

Your committee remains proactive & diligent.  Battles have been won but the war is not over.

Barbara Moore (President BHAG Inc.)