BHAG was invited to the official opening of the new Sub-acute wing on the 18th of December 2014. The $5.3million, 14 bed Rehabilitation & Palliative Care wards have been occupied for some months however the wing was now to be officially opened.
In 2009/10 the staff & Doctors at Bellingen Hospital had successfully applied for funding to construct a Sub-Acute facility. Under the Prime Ministership of Kevin Rudd the then Federal Labour Government $3million was awarded. Further funds in excess of $2million were sought from the NSW State Coalition Government to enable the preferred design concept & services to be completed providing our hospital with a ‘State of the Art’ facility that the local Network of hospitals (Coffs Harbour, Dorrigo, Macksville & Bellingen) uses to Rehabilitate sub-acute patients after they have recovered from their acute health state ready for discharge to either their home or a care facility. Palliative patients are also treated in this new wing.
When Bellingen Hospital was built in 1903 it opened with 6 beds. In 1927 this increased to 20 beds & in 1936 additional wards’ were built & by 1941 there were 44 beds & 22 staff. By 1943/44 the bed numbers were reported to be between 44-46 plus 4 bassinettes & 32 staff. In 1945 it was reported that there were 50 patients however it is unclear where they were located though it is known that patients were located on the verandas.
At some stage the bed numbers reduced to 43 & then early in 1994 they were reduced to 41 & by 1999 there were only 33 beds.
Bellingen Hospital now has 47 beds however one (bed 18 in Hartley House) is currently used as a store room. It was a purpose built paediatric ward however when paediatric services were removed from the hospital many years ago it was no longer utilised. Some years ago BHAG wrote to the Chief Executive regarding re-instating it as a bed due to its location adjacent to the Nurses Station however we have had no response.
During the ceremony Alex Floyd was invited to unveil the Wollemi Pine memorial tree that will be planted in memory of Dr George Hewitt. Alex worked with Dr Hewitt during the planting of the Arboretum & it was Alex who documented the comprehensive lists & plans of every tree in the Arboretum.
There were of course the expected speeches from Mayor Mark Troy, Melinda Pavey MLC (standing in for Luke Hartsuyker local Federal MP), Warren Grimshaw (Chairman of the Board) & Stewart Dowrick (CE for the MNCLHD).
There were many Community Organisation such as the Bellingen Lions & the Hospital Auxiliary/Pink Ladies present & Pauline Murphy & I attended on behalf of BHAG. We were rather ‘chuffed’ to listen to the words of Warren Grimshaw & Stewart Dowrick when they both acknowledged the extraordinary work our Bellingen Community does for the hospital & in particular how BHAG maintains a state of ‘constructive criticism’.
The Board & CE are regularly praising the work of our passionate community & stating that Bellingen Hospital is now a State of the Art facility with a solid future. This is a major turn-a-round from where it stood in late 2009/early 2010.
When the application for funding was submitted BHAG was proactive & embarrassing many in high places. We were advised by certain parties that Bellingen Hospital received the grant to calm us (the community) down. Therefore BHAG cannot take the praise for the new wing however if we had not been the ‘squeaky wheel’ at the time who knows what our future would have been.
Barb Moore (President BHAG)