Doctors rally against rehab closure

Dr Ellen McGirr and Marshall Fittler from Regional Community Watch with the letter signed by more than 100 doctors calling on the NSW Health Minister to intervene and stop the closure of St Vincents Hospitals rehabilitation unit. Doctors will protest the closure in Lismore tomorrow.

Local doctors and concerned citizens will hold a rally in Lismores CBD tomorrow morning (Friday, November 3) to protest the closure of St Vincents Hospitals rehabilitation unit, despite work on a contingency plan already well underway.

The rally was organised by Marshall Fittler from Regional Community Watch after more than 100 doctors signed a letter calling on the NSW Health Minister to intervene and stop the closure of the 33-bed facility.

The doctors told the Minister they also opposed the North Coast Area Health Services ad hoc contingency plan, saying it ignored patient needs and did not consider input from medical or allied health professionals.

They do support the construction of the $4.8 million Ballina rehabilitation facility given the growing coastal population, but say it should complement and not replace Lismore services.

Lismore rheumatologist Dr Ellen McGirr, who organised the letter, said the contingency plan does not change anything as rehab services in Lismore would still be seriously downgraded.

The plan puts rehab patients at the back of an orthopaedic ward (at Lismore Base Hospital) and no-ones very happy about that, Dr McGirr said. And a big loss from my specialist point of view is the closure of the hydrotherapy pool as rehab services will be inadequate without it. To build a hydrotherapy pool from scratch will be a very expensive exercise so to close it cant be justified medically and does no sit well with patients who do not think it makes common sense.

Dr McGirr said the rehab unit at St Vincents was fully functional and had been in existence for 40 years, so to close it beggars belief.

Mr Fittler has urged locals concerned about the loss of rehabilitation services to join the march and sign a petition protesting its closure.

The rally will begin with an assembly of doctors at St Vincents rehab unit at 7am, with the main march starting at 9am from the Browns Creek car park next to the police station in Molesworth Street. The rally will then make its way to the North Coast Area Health Service office at Crawford House.


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