JOHN Bigelow is not happy about the NSW government's plans for Lismore Base Hospital. A member of the community group Our Health, he was out in Woodlark Street on Wednesday collecting signatures on a petition to protest the way NSW Health Minister, Jillian Skinner, plans to spend the $20 million slated towards an $80 million upgrade of the hospital's Accident and Emergency Ward.
He claims that the plans for moving the ward would not address its most drastic shortcoming - a chronic bed shortage. By providing an extra 14 beds it would go only a little way towards offsetting problems exacerbated by the closure of regional satellite hospitals.
"The old Accident and Emergency ward had only 14 beds in it," he said. "I've seen up to six ambulances parked outside and unable to unload. What happens if there's a bad accident out on the road? They can't go out there till they're unloaded."
He added that the outdated 2006 clinical services plan concluded that an extra 100 beds were needed in the Richmond Valley regional community.
"The hospital almost always exceeds its accepted patient safety level, and it's getting worse."
While The Echo talked to Mr Bigelow several passers-by stopped to sign the petition and add their grievances to his list. He had collected 120 signatures, to be sent to the NSW legislative assembly, demanding an extra 100 beds be provided.