Category Archives: BHAG Meetings

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.)

BHAG newsletter 10/12/2011


There is only one week left for you to lodge a written submission to Bellingen Council SUPPORTING the Development Application No. 2011/DA-202 for the expansion of Bellingen Hospital (submission’s  close at 4pm on Thursday 22nd December 2011).  We want Council’s office to be flooded with your submissions.




The Bellinger Health Action Group (BHAG) has organised two (2) PUBLIC MEETINGS to celebrate our wonderful news & provide an opportunity for you to ask questions about the project, view the current plans & how to lodge a submission.

URUNGA – OCEAN VIEW HOTEL Wednesday 14th DECEMBER 2011 at 6.45pm-7.30pm.

BELLINGEN – UNITING CHURCH HALL Monday 19th DECEMBER 2011 at 6.30pm-8.30pm.

BHAG invites ALL OF YOU to celebrate our recent wonderful news of the upgrade to our hospital & the announced funding of $5 million AND find out the answers to some questions (but not exclusive to this list) you may have regarding the expansion such as.

Where will the building works be located?

When will the works commence & how long will they take?

What does ‘Sub-acute’ Rehabilitation & Palliative Care patient mean?

Will I still be able to be treated at Bellingen Hospital?

Will I still be able to have Allied Health services (e.g. Community Nurses, Mental Health clinic, Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, and Podiatry)?

How do I lodge a submission to Council regarding the DA?

How can I help with the relocation of the demountable’s to the High School?

How can I help with some outdoor structures?

How can I help with the landscaping?

What about the existing hospital buildings – will there be any work done to them- how can I help?

What is happening with the installation of Solar Hot Water systems?

We will be taking questions from the floor.  It is early days & not all the details have been finalised but we have various speakers who will speak on what we know at this point in time.

This will also be an opportunity for you to contribute & express your thoughts, ideas & concerns.

The Mayor, Doctor’s & Staff from Bellingen Hospital, Community representatives and your BHAG committee will be in attendance at the Bellingen meeting and due to the short notice for the Urunga meeting, Doctors and representatives from your BHAG committee will be in attendance.

We will have a display of the proposed new building for you to view.

We know this is a busy time for all however we look forward to seeing you either at Urunga or Bellingen.

I have a correction to make on my letter in last week’s publication (Courier Sun Dec 7).  The total amount raised by the jewellery raffle & fundraiser event at Urunga was $6,797 not $4,100 as reported.  My apologies to all involved.

Best wishes,

Barbara Moore (Vice Chair BHAG)

BHAG Annual General Meeting

Bellinger Hospital Action Group Inc. is holding the first annual general meeting on Wednesday 29th June at the Uniting Church Hall in Bellingen at 6 pm.

All members and would-be members are cordially invited to this opportunity of a thorough update of the developments at our local hospital and for the election of office bearers for the organisation for the coming year.

June 2011 – BHAG Chairperson’s report to Public meeting and AGM

The last report I wrote for a public meeting was in July 2010 and our work as the committee of the Bellinger Health Action Group has since then been much less stressful and exciting and much more methodical and requiring consistent attention.

The re-development of the hospital with significant federal funds is sort of just slipping in – it is a result of the Rudd Health Reform and it came to Bellingen, I believe for two reasons:

  1. This community had made a huge amount of noise about wanting to have a good hospital. Remember Andrew Heslop asking us to be a very squeaky wheel? That was in late 2009 and we have kept that wheel squeaking all this time.
  2. Our doctors have their ears to the ground and have written a timely and well put-together expression of interest for this funding.

Sadly, we are not having a party to celebrate because our politicians have not “officially” announced the funding and no stone has been laid just yet. But this is a once in a generation situation and we should be very happy about it. And I think that we can be quite proud of our achievements, give ourselves and each other a pat on the back.

The committee of BHAG has been a very pleasant group of people for me to work with and I think we can say that we became friends over this time. Unfortunately, not all committee members elected at the inaugural meeting could continue to contribute and we had to accept resignations from Solveig Larsen, Jen St Clair, Gai Stern and Maratana Hope.

I thank all members of the BHAG committee sincerely for their commitment and their contributions over the past year. When I agreed to be chairperson for BHAG, I knew that I had a strong, supportive and reliable group with me and that made my job much easier.

The BHAG committee have worked on a number of fronts:

Firstly, we developed some policies to guide the way we do things and they are about: –  BHAG members who are not committee members attending committee meetings,

–          how we govern our expenses and

–          about the organisation of and insurance for events.

a) Committee meeting attendance

The meetings of the management committee of the association are open to members of the association to attend.

Members of the association wishing to attend committee meetings should notify the secretary 48 hours prior of their intention to attend and specify the topic of their address.

Members wishing to address the committee meeting are asked to adhere to a time of no more than 15 minutes to present their address. If a longer time is required, a special committee meeting may be necessary.

Members of the association attending committee meetings do not participate in committee discussion and decisions.

b)  Expenses

This policy states that one committee member is authorised to commit to expenses of up to $ 150. Two committee members can authorise payments up to $ 500 and expenses over that amount have to be decided by the committee meeting.

c) BHAG public events

1. The management committee welcomes proposals for public events from BHAG members, subject to:

a) a proposal being made about the contribution that the event would make to BHAG’s Objects of Association, including detaisl of likely costs and revenues and a commitment to acquit all expenses transparently;

b) lodgement of the proposal at least two weeks prior to the monthly BHAG management committee meeting;

c) the event being considered a priority by the management committee, taking into account other demands on BHAG’s funds; and

d) the event being eligible for insurance cover under BHAG’s public liability policy.

2. Only events endorsed by the management committee may use the BHAG name in the promotion of a public event.

BHAG has a contact list of 1399 at present.

The following issues kept us busy right through the year:

  1. The hospital bus
  2. Maternity Services
  3. Community participation / Hospital priorities
  4. Securing Community Donations for Bellingen Hospital
  5. Hospital gardening volunteering
  6. Fund raising
  7. Informing the community
  8. The bus:  Barbara’s teeth went into this story and she didn’t let go until she found out exactly what had happened when and who paid for what. The story emerged in such a way that no-one could pretend that the bus didn’t belong to the Bellingen Community and the bus was eventually returned to Bellingen. BHAG had significant support for this from our local member, now deputy premier, Andrew Stoner. After consulting through our website and our local paper, the most appropriate action was found to be the transfer of the bus to Community Transport.


  1. Maternity Services

This situation is still unsatisfactory, as you have heard from Trevor. BHAG has placed advertisements state-wide to attract midwives to Bellingen and we are very lucky to have two GP’s who are able and willing to provide obstetric services.  But we still don’t have the required number of qualified midwives to fill the roster for the time of a birth plus the 24 hours following the birth. As a result, recruited midwives have left again. BHAG would like to be involved with the development of suitable model of midwifery care, which is attractive to expectant mothers, midwives and doctors and will be funded by the Health District.

  1. Community Participation / Hospital priorities

We have written a detailed submission to the Local Health Plan for Bellingen Hospital with emphasis on the priorities BHAG has agreed on. We are in contact with the new Executive Officer, Stewart Dowrick, on these issues and some of us have briefly met with the Chairman of the Local Health District Board, Warren Grimshaw. Our request for a formal meeting with the chairman has not been warranted to date, and as is common, this is an issue that requires persistence on our behalf.

Our close working relationship with the Medical Staff Council allows us to keep in touch with what is going on and to pursue matters from the community’s side of the table.

  1. Securing Donations

Another of those things for persistence. We raised the problem of donations – items that are purchased from community donations become the property of the Health Service and can be re-located to other hospitals or can be sold with the funds going back into general revenue. We have made it clear that we (the Bellingen community) are not happy with that and that we are looking for an improvement. So far, no acceptable arrangement has been offered. As a result, we find we have two options: a) Put a plaque on the donated item

b) Purchase something that can not be moved, such a solar hot water panels.

  1. Hospital Gardening – that is the one group of volunteers that has continued to be active and their hands-on contribution is still coordinated by Barbara, who will tell you about that separately after me.
  2. Fund-raising

While this has not been a priority once we secured a very comfortable fighting fund, we still had to deal with the diamond ring that was donated following the hospital dance last year. Barbara has followed this through and  got an official valuation for the ring as well as a number of other jewellery pieces donated by local artists. Have a look, they are lovely. Our friend Bryan Duffy took these professional photos for us.

We will be able to launch the raffle once we have a date for the raffle to be drawn – hopefully at another Harry Martin party by the river in Urunga in August / September. We need lots of raffle ticket sellers and would appreciate your support in this. The aim is to sell 4000 tickets. Please put your name on the list tonight with your contact details, if you are able to help.


How will BHAG funds be spent? This question is to be answered by the incoming committee. We have heard tonight that the federal funds promised for Bellingen Hospital will not be permitted to be used to repair existing infrastructure. The outgoing committee has discussed and agreed to recommend to the new committee to spend BHAG funds on a solar hot water system for the hospital – this would be something that can not be moved to another hospital and will contribute to the sustainability of the hospital. However, if the leaking roof will not be replaced with state funds, then BHAG may want to consider fundraising for a new roof before considering a solar hot water system.


  1. Keeping you informed

This was always high on our agenda and for almost twelve months, I managed to write and place weekly press releases. Our local papers and journalists have been very supportive in this and I would like to express our appreciation to the Bellinger Courier Sun and to Ute Schulenberg, journalist at the Coffs Coast Advocate. – Thank you. And special thanks to Fiona Croskill who edited my media releases so quickly each time I emailed something to her – often with short or no notice.

As well, we have managed to keep a website going. Firstly, we had help with that from Peter Livingstone and this was followed by Sebastian Syder – thank you to both of them for their help.

David Wallin has been looking after our member emails – always sending mail-outs promptly and reliably and dealing with incoming mail as well. David tried to explain to me how it was done (this is a gmail group) but kindly offered to keep doing it when I just couldn’t fit it in.

The save-bellingen-hospital facebook page has 3651 people who “like” it and many of them place comments on the page. This has also been a great contribution to the toolkit for  communication between BHAG and the community.

So, wrapping up, let me say that it has been a very steep learning curve for most of us

– understanding the issues, understanding the changes in hospital politics and administration, learning who is who and what they do, etc.

–  being the spokesperson and the media person and the chairperson all in one was a bit much for me at times. Journalists calling and putting me on the spot or in front of a camera & microphone, making sure all information went out on time and correctly, designing websites and learning how to update the content is all interesting and would be thoroughly enjoyable if only it didn’t have to fit into the one day of the week when I didn’t have to go to work.

A good chairperson prepares a meeting agenda draft ahead of time, sends it around and amends it if necessary. A good chairperson also keeps meeting times to a reasonable length and makes sure everyone is heard and their opinions are considered. I think I was a bit better at the chairing of meetings than the preparation. Thanks to Barbara I was usually on my toes – she is a very good backseat driver!

As many of you know. I have decided to step down from the job. I thank you all for your trust and encouragement and thank especially the outgoing committee for their support and patience, their commitment, their time and the knowledge and skills they contribute.

Pia Dollman
29 June 2011