‘Useful life over’ for Inverell, Glen Innes hospitals

A CAMPAIGN to redevelop Inverell and Glen Innes hospitals has been brought to the attention of state parliament. 

Northern Tablelands MP Richard Torbay orchestrated the campaign and a petition that attracted the signatures of more than 11,000 community members.

During a parliamentary debate last Thursday, Mr Torbay said the hospitals had reached the end of their “useful life” and needed major redevelopment, urging the government to support clinical services plans to pave the way for funding.

He told parliament smaller multi-purpose services and large metropolitan and regional hospitals had attracted funding, but the middle-tier district hospitals had missed out.

“We want a specific category for district hospitals so they are not continually overlooked,” Mr Torbay said.

“These hospitals were built when distance and relative isolation created greater demands for their services.

“They have been added onto over the years, creating large, sprawling buildings that do not meet the standards of efficiency required by modern medicine, and although staff provide excellent services, they are being asked to perform under extremely trying conditions.”

Mr Torbay told The Leader he would ask the mayors of Inverell and Glen Innes to join him in meeting with Health Minister Jillian Skinner and pushing for clinical services plans.

Ms Skinner was not present but Minister for Healthy Lifestyles, Western NSW and Mental Health, Kevin Humphries, made a contribution from the government.

He said planning exercises on the towns’ health services, conducted by Hunter New England Health, revealed a need for greater general practitioner and primary care services.

“In regional and rural towns, in particular, there is a growing importance for organisations such as the Medicare Locals and the Rural Doctors Network to work more closely with government and non-government providers to help ensure that the primary care needs of residents are met, while taking care not to duplicate services,” Mr Humphries said.

According to the minister, site master plans for the towns’ health services focus on supporting ambulatory models of care, as well as primary and community health, acute services and inpatient units.

Mr Torbay told The Leader that while community health care was important, these network services plans also highlighted the infrastructure was exhausted.

Opposition health spokesman Andrew McDonald said Glen Innes should receive a multi-purpose service, while calling for Inverell to be designed as a 50-bed general district hospital.

“There is nothing to prevent these hospitals from being built, other than money,” Dr McDonald said.

Former Inverell resident Steven De Gunst – who himself launched a petition calling for the redevelopment of Inverell hospital that collected 3000 signatures – was in the gallery during the debate.

He said while a problem was acknowledged, the government did not offer any solutions.

Mr De Gunst told The Leader he would continue to push the issue and planned to lobby Dr McDonald to campaign on the town’s behalf.

“Keep squeaking to get some oil,” Mr De Gunst said.

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