Future of Coraki hospital in doubt

Facing an uncertain future – the Campbell Hospital in Coraki.
Facing an uncertain future – the Campbell Hospital in Coraki.

The community of Coraki is concerned that the Campbell Hospital will be allowed to fall into disrepair and is calling on the Northern NSW Local Health District to guarantee its future.

The hospital was closed after suffering storm damage in September and October last year. Staff from the hospital have all been redeployed to other facilities or have taken leave. Last week staff were told the hospital would be closed until further notice while a review of infrastructure was carried out. One staff member contacted The Echo saying he believed security services at the hospital had been cancelled, however this has been denied by the Local Health District.

George Thompson is a member of the Save the Hospital committee and said alarm bells were ringing in the community.

A meeting to be held tonight (Thursday, February 9) at the Coraki Hotel has been jointly organised by Save the Hospital group and the Coraki Village Voice neighbourhood association.

"There is a concern that the infrastructure report could be used as an excuse for closing the hospital down," Mr Thompson said. "Health services are under budget pressure and we don't want to see Coraki sacrificed for cost-cutting reasons."

Chief executive of the Northern NSW Local Health District, Chris Crawford, said they are currently "undertaking a complete review of the hospital's infrastructure" and that the LHD is obliged to provide infrastructure that is conducive to the delivery of safe patient care.

No date has been set for when the report will be finalised and presented to the LHD board, which will decide on the hospital's future.

Page MP Janelle Saffin and Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis have both added their voices to those calling for the hospital to be re-opened as soon as possible.

"I call on Mr Crawford to again reassure the community that their hospital will be repaired and re-opened," Ms Saffin said. "It is important for the community to be kept well informed about what is happening with the hospital."

Chris Gulaptis said the time taken to make a decision was "frustrating

and very disappointing".

"The hospital did cop a pounding from storm damage and the Local Health District has commissioned a structural engineer's study, so we're moving along, but not at the pace the local community and I had hoped for," he said.

The hospital was temporarily closed in March 2010 after heavy rain and there was a push to have it closed in 2005, which sparked a massive outcry from the Coraki community.

George Thompson said it has always been regarded as an important part of the community as it had been bequeathed to the community by John Campbell, who donated the land and provided funds to establish the hospital in 1903.

"Lots of local residents were born there or have spent time recovering there after an accident... We take the view that it has been able to operate successfully since 1903 and don't see why they (the NNSW LHD) can't afford to maintain this important health facility in Coraki," Mr Thompson said.

Coraki residents currently have to travel to Lismore Base Hospital for hospital services.

"The meeting will be a first step to working out a course of action to secure the future of hospital," Mr Thompson said.

The meeting commences at 6.30pm.

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