Bellinger hospital service to stay

THE future of overnight accident and emergency services at the Bellinger River District Hospital seems certain.

After a determined grass-roots campaign, the North Coast Area Health Service (NCAHS) has handed the Bellinger Health Action Group ( BHAG) a major victory.

NCAHS chief executive Chris Crawford said the current overnight A & E service was safe for the foreseeable future.

“I can say that it is most unlikely that it won’t continue to be a 24-hour emergency department,” Mr Crawford said.

“Because of the proposed Federal health reforms, the NSW Health Department is now taking the attitude to maintain the status quo, and in this case that means keeping the emergency department at the Bellinger River District Hospital open throughout the night,” he said.

“No formal or final decision has been taken to close it so the service will continue as it is at the hospital.”

The announcement was sweet music to the ears of the chair of BHAG Pia Dollmann.

“I am just thrilled!” Ms Dollmann said.

Ms Dollmann said the threat of closing the hospital’s emergency department between 11pm and 7am was one of the catalysts for the formation of BHAG.

“The issue has galvanised and motivated the Bellingen community. The closure of the overnight A & E service was recommended by the Clinical Task Force despite 126 people presenting to the A & E in the first six months of 2009,” Ms Dollmann said.

“With almost 30 per cent growth in the number of people presenting to the emergency department between 2005 and 2009 the decision to keep it open is the most sensible thing to do.

“We (BHAG) are now preparing our position in relation to the proposed local hospital boards and remain adamant that the Bellingen Shire must continue to have an overnight A & E service.”

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