Bellinger River District Hospital.
Bellinger River District Hospital. Trevor Veale

New beds ease pressure

BELLINGER River District Hospital will acquire a new 14-bed sub-acute ward.

It's the largest capital investment at Bellingen's hospital for several years.

The $5 million project was officially announced yesterday by the Minister for Health, Jillian Skinner, and the Deputy Premier and member for Oxley, Andrew Stoner.

The development application was put on exhibition for public comment by Bellingen Shire Council on Wednesday.

Submissions to the council on the proposal, which includes parking and tree removal as well as construction of the new building, will close on December 22.

Local consumer health advocates said the welcome development would mean that rehabilitation and palliative care patients, who are already being transferred to Bellingen from Coffs Harbour and Macksville hospitals, would no longer be taking up acute care beds in Bellingen.

Funding for the new ward has come from the Council of Australian Governments' National Health and Hospital Reform Funding - Sub Acute program.

The money will provide eight sub-acute rehabilitation beds and six palliative care beds, adding to the present 34 general beds to give Bellingen a total of 48 hospital beds.

Construction is expected to start in 2012.

"This funding will substantially enhance the role this hospital can play in improving the health of both local and Coffs Harbour region residents requiring rehabilitation and palliative care," Minister Skinner said.

"The accommodation will be provided in a new building, linked to the existing hospital, and will share treatment spaces to provide greater flexibility.

"I commend the Mid North Coast Local Health District, which has worked closely with the Medical Advisory Group, Nursing and Allied Health staff as well as ensuring community representatives were kept informed throughout the process."

Mr Stoner said Bellingen was an excellent location to deliver long-term rehabilitation services in conjunction with the acute care already provided.

The service will greatly support the clinical network.

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