Country folk targeted as hospital ‘consults’

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“Good hospital care goes beyond just treating the specific injury or condition. Support from family and friends goes a long way to making a patient feel better or to speed recovery,” writes political columnist MICHAEL MOORE. 

SHAFTING people who live in the national capital region simply makes Canberrans bad neighbours. 

Michael Moore.

Canberra Hospital provides high-quality and high-level services not just for the people of the ACT, but is our regional tertiary teaching hospital. Withdrawing services from our neighbours is unconscionable. 

The hospital has commenced a consultation on “future changes to residential accommodation services”. 

Meetings were scheduled in Bega, Goulburn and Batemans Bay as well as Canberra through September and October. Additionally, there has also been an online survey with more than 1200 responses. All sounds good!

However, the consultations are already a cause for concern. The hospital statement makes clear that current residential facilities in Building 5 will close down in mid-2020 to make way for building works as the hospital develops the Surgical Procedures, Interventional Radiology and Emergency (SPIRE) Centre. 

Closing in mid 2020 – less than nine months away and people are being asked about options for “optimal” residential support.

Good hospital care goes beyond just treating the specific injury or condition. Support from family and friends goes a long way to making a patient feel better or to speed recovery. 

Cancer patients having regular chemotherapy or radiotherapy can hardly be expected to travel to and from their regional homes. Family support also makes a positive impact.

According to the hospital administration, the consultations have meant “we were able to talk to as many people as possible who have either used the service or have a family member who has”. 

They go on to argue that “these workshops have provided a great deal of feedback about the experiences of patients and carers who have made suggestions for future options”. 

The hospital’s “Fact Sheet” says: “Feedback on these future changes will help us to find the optimal solutions for residential accommodation services beyond mid-2020.” 

Fair go! There is simply not enough time to build or even facilitate an “optimal solution” within the next nine months.

A different view is emerging. Alan Russell, as secretary of the Rotary Club of Batemans Bay, has written to Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith pointing out concerns on the consultation process. 

“The knowledge of this public meeting within the community of Batemans Bay was poor and the number who attended the meeting was very low”.

Mr Russell goes further: “Batemans Bay Rotary is concerned at the closure and demolition of the Isolated Patients and Carers Accommodation facility at The Canberra Hospital in 2019, and the residential services from mid-2020 will cause great distress, inconvenience and annoyance for the people living on the south coast”. 

For people in the region, this part of the hospital is an essential service. Costs for the rooms are not at commercial rates. There is support through the Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS). If not eligible, a double room can still be secured for $60. 

Even more importantly, as Mr Russell points out: “When people are placed in the situation of facing major medical issues it is very reassuring to them that being able to access accommodation at a reasonable cost so close to the hospital is possible”. 

There are other issues beyond accommodation. 

“While the accommodation is basic, our Rotary members express their support to the care provided by the staff, the reasonable costs charged, the 24-hour security and cleanliness of the rooms and amenities,” he writes. 

“Several Rotary members have used the facilities over many years to access the specialised medical facilities that are not available in Batemans Bay or Moruya”. 

Rotary clubs can provide a community voice. They recognise the SPIRE facility is important, however, are really concerned about the late notice with the facility closing in nine months while no other option has been determined. 

Hospital redevelopments do not happen overnight and Rachel Stephen-Smith has not been the Minister for Health for very long. However, the fundamental questions she needs to put to the hospital are: how has it come to an either/or situation rather than an appropriate transition and how will hospital administration provide equivalent services from mid next year?


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Michael Moore
Michael Moore is a former member of the ACT Legislative Assembly and an independent minister for health in the Carnell government. He has been a political columnist with "CityNews" since 2006.


  1. The arrogant and entitled Barr Government, having perfected the art of holding community consultations with zero impact, seem happy to inflict their ‘progressive’ style of governance on our NSW neighbours.

  2. Interestingly, if the NSW patients travelled to Sydney for treatment they would not be getting the level of support or subsided accommodation from the hospitals in Sydney or the NSW government that they expect the ACT taxpayer to pay for. Why should the ACT taxpayer be expected to pay for this ?

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