Save Our Hospital Inc (SOHI) has turned to Facebook in its fight to retain the Pambula Hospital Emergency Department.
SOHI president Sharon Tapscott said the organisation’s newly re-elected executive has decided to re-engage the community via the ‘Save Pambula Hospital’ page, with former patients encouraged to share stories of how the hospital has helped them.
Mrs Tapscott said the decision was made in response to an options paper presented to the hospital by the Local Health District (LHD), which stated that there is no benefit in retaining the status quo at Pambula Hospital.
The alternative funding models identified by the LHD would both remove Pambula’s status as a hospital, with funding to be diverted to the new South East Regional Hospital at Bega.
“At the moment, we feel that our emergency services are under threat, so we need to get that out to people and allow them to react to that news,” Mrs Tapscott said.
“We need to give them the choice to continue to fight for their community service, or see if they’re happy to just let it dwindle away.
“They need to know about it, and an awareness campaign through social media seems to be the best way to do that.”
Mrs Tapscott said personal stories from those who had experienced the services at Pambula Hospital could prove vital in stating the hospital’s case.
The renewed appeal has already received a response, with Natasha Ferguson commenting, “I have a son with asthma. We have needed the emergency department in Pambula many times and will continue to need it.”
Mrs Tapscott urged the community to be vigilant, saying it is important to act “before it gets to a point where we can do nothing about it”.
“If we can get some stories funnelled through Facebook or directly to the newspapers about how Pambula Hospital has helped people in the past, we can give the decision-makers an idea of how relevant Pambula Hospital is and how necessary it is to be kept open,” she said.
“The page hasn’t been updated for a while because we’ve allowed the Health Department to go through the process, but all the promises that they’ve made haven’t come to fruition.
“We’ll now be re-engaging our audience and uploading all our latest news and photos to the page whenever we can.”
Mrs Tapscott said the hospital is especially critical because of the area’s ageing population.
“It’s vital because the options document doesn’t uphold our emergency department as being sustainable, and it gives very little relevance to elderly people who are trying to travel to the new hospital in Bega; there doesn’t seem to have been any travel strategies put in place.”
She also highlighted the potential dangers in local industries that create a heightened need for a nearby emergency department.
“It costs $80 one-way in a taxi, which is unaffordable, and the bus service is next to nil,” Mrs Tapscott said.
“The ageing population find it very difficult to get around as it is, and it’s a very spread-out shire.
“But you add to that some of the dangerous industries that we have, like logging and fishing, and then we’re going to be bringing in 2000 people at a time on the new cruise ships; you never know what people are going to need the hospital for.
“It’s also the closest hospital to the airport, and it’s just a waste of time ferrying patients up and back from Bega before a decision is made on whether or not to fly them out.
“Particularly at night, the idea of dodging kangaroos and wombats all the way out to Bega is very dangerous, and can just add to the whole problem.
“Our ambulance officers are very good, but they are stretched to the limit and the number of vehicles they have has not increased, so it’s vital that we have a functioning hospital in Pambula.”
To visit the 'Save Pambula Hospital' Facebook page, click here.