Janine Slater and Gill Lomath have had a long association with Mullumbimby Hospital and vow to work their hardest to keep the services for the community.
Janine Slater and Gill Lomath have had a long association with Mullumbimby Hospital and vow to work their hardest to keep the services for the community. Cathy Adams

How Health system 'works'

"A SAGA of broken promises, a gross waste of taxpayers' money, evasive and misleading information, and from both sides of politics, constant shifting of the goalposts."

That's how Gill Lomath and Janine Slater sum up their combined nearly 50 years of fighting health bureaucrats to retain services at Mullumbimby Hospital.

They are just two of many people in the Northern Rivers battling to save country hospitals, including residents of Coraki and Bonalbo.

Some battles have been won, like keeping the doors of Mullumbimby Hospital open when health bureaucrats tried to use asbestos found in it as a reason to close it in 1996.

Others like the fight to retain surgical services in 1999 were lost.

They claim most of the bureaucrats they have dealt with have shown little interest in or regard for the welfare of the communities they were making decisions about.

They don't direct their criticisms toward any individual but rather a culture that seems to prevail regardless of which health CEO or elected politician is in charge.

While they cannot talk publicly about it, their work as community representatives on the group planning the Byron Bay Central Hospital has only deepened their distrust and disillusionment.

Planning for the Ewingsdale facility, which is at least five years away and will eventually replace Mullumbimby and Byron Bay hospitals, is expected to be completed next month.

"It's been the deceit that has been the most disappointing," says Ms Slater, from Ocean Shores.

"Half-truths filled with medical and planning jargon can be misinterpreted by a layperson. I believe this is the intention at times."

Reviewing correspondence between the now-defunct Brunswick Valley Health Watch and various state and local health bureaucrats helps explain the distrust.

Assurances and commitments are given that are reversed weeks later, or that 10 years down the track still haven't come to fruition.

Ms Slater and Ms Lomath, though very tired, are determined to battle on with the help of the community to stave off the latest crisis facing the hospital - a proposal for it to be one of the first in the state to cut emergency doctors overnight in favour of tele-medicine..

They will not accept without a fight any more erosion of services at the hospital until the new central facility is up and running.

"It's not just a building. It's the heart of the community," says Ms Slater.


Crawford to explain video doctoring

Local health district CEO Chris Crawford will address a public meeting next month to explain his proposal to scrap emergency doctors overnight at Mullumbimby Hospital in favour of video-linking technology.

The meeting will be held at Mullumbimby High School Hall on August 2, from 7pm.

The Save Mullum Hospital Steering Committee is collecting personal experiences about the hospital's emergency department.

Submit to savemullumhospital@gmail.com, or leave your submission at the box placed at Mullumbimby Newsagency, or phone 6684 0242.