Country patients left out in the cold

FACILITY CLOSURE

COUNTRY patients have fewer cheap options after the closure of Greenwich’s Blue Gum Lodge.

The facility provided cost-effective accommodation for country residents who needed to go to hospital in North Sydney, including Royal North Shore Hospital and the Mater Hospital, but closed last month  to house Greenwich Hospital patients.

Bendemeer resident Marie Cowling who suffers the autoimmune disease lupus said this meant there was nowhere affordable to stay near the hospitals in North Sydney.

“I understand they need the space for the hospital, but we need our accommodation as well,” Mrs Cowling said.

“I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve stayed at Blue Gum Lodge and other facilities because both our sons have a severe disability, so we’ve had to take them to Newcastle and Sydney. The price of Sydney accommodation is an unneeded stress on families because you’re already away from home and often sick as a dog. For each closure, the government should provide other facilities.”

She said her average stay at Blue Gum Lodge would be about two weeks, which would be unaffordable in a motel or similar accommodation.

“All these places are full, so there’s an obvious need,” she said.

“If we stay at a bed and breakfast, it’s $100-plus a night, plus petrol and food and you get a bit back from the Isolated Patients Transport and Accommodation Assistance Scheme, but it’s not all covered.”

She said it might come to the point where they had to sit on NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner’s doorstep to make their point.

“They think that NSW ends at Newcastle,” she said.

“We ask minister Jillian Skinner to provide affordable and accessible hospital accommodation for country patients. I’m really passionate about this and am going to push it, push it, push it.”

HammondCare, who own Greenwich Hospital, health and hospitals general manager Stewart James said the previous owners of Greenwich Hospital gave five years notice about eight years ago that they would need to end their involvement in the accommodation service and they had made it clear the purpose of Blue Gum would need to change.

Corindi Beach’s Linda Samera has Sjogrenf Syndrome which has seen her stay at Blue Gum Lodge numerous times.

She has started a petition to Ms Skinner which has nearly 12,000 signatures so far.

“The issue is much broader than the North Shore,” she said,

“Prince of Wales and Royal Prince Alfred have closed their accommodation as well. Royal Prince Alfred’s Norland House is about to close in the coming months and Prince of Wales closed their accommodation about two years ago and have had nothing to replace it.”

Mrs Samera said Blue Gum Lodge would become a palliative care unit for Greenwich Hospital and Royal North Shore Hospital 

is giving two accommodation options to country patients,which are Mary Mackillop Place and Ryde Hospital accommodation.

She said Mary Mackillop Place was single accommodation and more expensive and was used for other purposes, and Ryde Hospital accommodation was only for patients of Ryde Hospital.

Mrs Samera said she was happy to present the petition to the minister now, but wanted to get country politicians on board for support.

“What we’re finding at the moment, if no one is complaining about it in their electorates then the MPs won’t know about it,” Mrs Samera said.

Mrs Samera said she encouraged people to write to their local MPs or meet with them to tell them about this situation.

Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson and Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall said they had been approached on this issue and were awaiting further information from Ms Skinner.

If you want to sign the petition, visit http://communityrun.org/p/nowheretostay.

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