This month, BHAG was delighted to receive a letter of thanks from the Mid North Coast Local Health District’s Chief Executive, Stewart Dowrick, thanking both the BHAG Committee and the Volunteer Gardeners for their support during 2015.
After years of requests & discussions with senior executives failing to achieve a commitment to re-roof the leaking roofs on Hewitt Block & Hartley House at Bellingen Hospital BHAG stepped up the pressure in 2013.
During a Special General Meeting of BHAG Financial Members on the 27th Feb 2013 a motion was successfully moved & declared that $35,000 of existing donated funds be allocated towards re-roofing the hospital.
Your BHAG Committee commenced a massive Public & Political (Local, State & Federal) awareness & Fundraising campaign (lead by Pauline Murphy) stating the failure of senior executives in the Health Service to undertake routine maintenance at Bellingen Hospital (decades of neglect) regarding the state of the leaking roofs. No longer was it appropriate to fill the holes with more Silicone – the solution now was to replace the roofs, flashings, gutters & downpipes etc.
Raffle tickets were sold, donations gratefully received & our Petition to the NSW State Government signed by nearly 3,000 people.
20th of July 2013 the petition was received by our local MP’s Andrew Fraser & Andrew Stoner with a verbal commitment ‘The 2 Andrews Commit to 2 new Roofs at Bellingen Hospital’. Those present were elated as they were on record (televised on the NBN News that night).
Local businesses, individuals & Community Service Organisations were also very generous with individual donations varying from small change to $1,000. Over $13,543 was raised including interest earned throughout the campaign where the initial fund of $35,000 grew to $48,543 in just over 5 months.
It took some time but on the 21st October 2013 BHAG received written confirmation from the Mid North Coast Local Health District that The Board had allocated funds from their 2013/14 budget to replace the roofs & associated flashings etc. on Hewitt Block & Hartley House. The works commenced in November 2013 with re-roofing the Emergency Department initially & then the remainder of the roof on Hewitt Block which was completed around March 2014. The roof on Hartley House followed and was completed in June 2014. BHAG arranged an independent inspection by Rodney Hicks (Hicks Plumbing & Drainage).
The Mid North Coast Local Health District acknowledged the passionate commitment of the community of the Bellingen Shire during a morning tea celebration at Bellingen Hospital on the 8th of October 2014 when we donated $48,543 towards the cost to re-roof. The total cost to re-roof (excluding gutter guard & GST) was $348,879.75.
As president I would like to say thank you to the Chief Executive (Stewart Dowrick), Board & Chairman (Warren Grimshaw) of the Mid North Coast Local health District; the staff & Doctors at Bellingen Hospital; past & present committee members of BHAG in particular the ‘Funraising’ committee (aptly named by Gai Stern); Bellingen Shire Councillors; our local Members of Parliament and our entire community. Without this united support the staff would still be supervising the ‘bucket brigade’ at Bellingen Hospital during heavy rain events.
I wonder how many other communities have been successful in campaigning to undertake this scope of works in their local public hospital! This is not the first time that our community have had to fund major capital works. In 1925 the roof of the isolation ward was leaking. It had been built by the Dept. of Public Works & they refused to repair it. The Bellingen community had to foot the bill. There appears to be a theme here!
Well done Bello,
Barb Moore (president BHAG Inc.)
MORE PHOTOS, ARTICLES & NEWSPAPER COVERAGE
HEWITT BLOCK & HARTLEY HOUSE
BELLINGER RIVER DISTRICT HOSPITAL
“to allocate $35,000.00 of the current funds held by the Bellinger Health Action Group Inc. to financially assist the Bellinger River District Hospital project to replace the roof over Hewitt Block & Hartley House subject to the Mid North Coast Local Health District & or NSW State Government committing to meet the financial balance.”
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’:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.)
Nearly Three years ago our Bellingen Hospital was facing multiple threats including conversion to a Multi-Purpose Service facility (MPS); a closure of overnight Emergency Services; a permanent closure of Maternity; a reduction of X-Ray & Theatre services & a subtle threat of closure of the entire hospital due to failing infrastructure such as leaking roofs etc.
The dark cloud hanging over the hospital & the staff propelled our community into action. You wrote to & met with politicians, health bureaucrats & the media and you marched down the street in protest & overall were a squeaky wheel. You launched a fundraising campaign & became actively involved with on-ground works at the hospital assisting with grounds maintenance & general beautification. The outcome was that your actions & words were noticed & noted both locally & higher up. The residents of the Bellingen Shire are now recognised & acknowledged as a force not to be reckoned with – a community committed to & passionate about its local hospital & the services it provides.
There is still more lobbying to be done such as resolving the on-going problem of the leaking roofs & other infrastructure matters and bringing to fruition Martin Hogan’s plan to install Solar Hot Water. The grounds/gardens still require continued restoration with on-going maintenance and the future of Maternity services remain unresolved. The planned $5million expansion that will shortly commence & the following upgrade & expansion of the Emergency Department will provide further opportunity for community involvement.
Do you want to be part of a pro-active BHAG committee to carry forward the work of the past three years as we move into this next exciting phase & ensure that the objectives of BHAG are fulfilled? All are welcome at the AGM at 6.30pm Wednesday 17th October 2012 at the Uniting Church Hall. For further information please contact Barbara Moore on 6655 1898 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Your attendance is recommended at the AGM to hear what has been achieved over the past year, what remains under threat & what the new direction for Bellingen Hospital & BHAG will be.
Barbara Moore (Vice President BHAG Inc.)
Your BHAG Committee met with Andrew Stoner on site at the hospital on Thursday 9th February to discuss with him during a walking tour, the on-going concerns the community has regarding timely & appropriate maintenance to the buildings & surrounds.
In particular we discussed the poor state of many areas of the buildings, the leaking roofs, the desire to install solar hot water, the poor state of the internal roads & the restoration of the Arboretum.
The emphasis was on the lack of funds in the maintenance budget & the lack of sufficient man hours on site to undertake the works.
We also discussed the re-location of the demountables to the schools for use as a music department & during our walk we showcased the work the BHAG Gardening group have undertaken over the past 20 months.
We showed him where the expansion to the Emergency Department & the new Sub-acute Ward will be located. An article will be finalised shortly once I have received written confirmation of the promises Andrew made during the tour.
Barb Moore (Vice Chair BHAG Inc.)
Members of the Bellinger Health Action Group Committee (BHAG) met with Andrew Stoner on site at Bellingen Hospital on Thursday 9th February to discuss with him during a walking tour, the on-going concerns the community has regarding timely & appropriate maintenance to the buildings & surrounds.
We discussed the re-location of the demountables to the schools for use as a music department and Andrew Stoner agreed to assist us. Mr Stoner has now confirmed this in writing: “I agreed to help the community with moving the demountables, subject to what was actually required. There was a suggestion that a local transport business may agree to provide a truck and that a crane business might help with the lifting of the demountables, hence any financial contribution required might be minimal. When those issues are resolved, and the type and quantum of assistance required has been clearly identified, I will do what I can through relevant government agencies to assist.”
It will now be the responsibility of those organising the re-location of the demountables to determine what resources they require & contact Mr Stoner.
We then discussed the leaking roofs, viewed a number of other isolated maintenance matters & I spoke of the communities desire to install solar hot water. Mr Stoner was impressed with the solar hot water initiative commenting that this would save the hospital money. He has also confirmed in writing his verbal offer of assistance: “I offered to explore ways of funding repair or replacement of the Hewitt block roofing and other maintenance items once a cost estimate was provided.”
The committee will again pursue a cost on these matters as a matter of urgency given Hewitt Block experienced at least 4 locations where water entered the hospital building during the last flood.
During our walking tour of the areas that the BHAG volunteer gardeners have restored he commended our work & the contribution we were making to the hospital including the positive benefits it was achieving including incidental maintenance of infrastructure. Mr Stoner was shown the location of the expansion of the Emergency Department and at the conclusion of our tour he was shown where the new Sub-Acute ward would be built. Due to its proximity to the adjacent Dr George Hewitt Arboretum I advised him that this unique heritage listed asset was in desperate need of restoration. That an earlier grant application had been unsuccessful and I asked him if he could assist. Mr Stoner has confirmed in writing: “I offered to explore avenues of assistance (eg heritage or environmental funding) for restoration of the arboretum. To do so, I will need a written proposal including a cost estimate and an indication of community contribution towards the work.”
Those persons involved in an earlier ‘working group’ to restore the Arboretum so that it can once again be open to the public and be used by the patients in the hospital will need to resurrect the earlier plans of two years ago and write a proposal to Mr Stoner.
We discussed in passing the state of the internal road and parking situation as another example of budget constraints.
We emphasised that the lack of maintenance was primarily due to insufficient funds in the maintenance budget for infrastructure & the lack of sufficient man hours on site to undertake the works.
As a result of this tour Mr Stoner has advised me of the following: “I have spoken to Mr Dowrick regarding maintenance of the hospital facilities and he has undertaken to do what he can within his budget.”
Mr Stewart Dowrick (CEO of the Mid North Coast Local Health District) was in attendance during this visit by Mr Stoner, as was Ms Kathleen Boman (Executive Officer/Director of Nursing of Bellingen Hospital).
The BHAG committee is grateful for the time and consideration Mr Stoner has given to our hospital needs and it is now up to the community and the executive of the local health network to prepare the necessary documentation and forward it to Mr Stoner.
Barbara Moore (Vice Chair BHAG Inc.)