This is a critical time for deciding the future shape and content of health services provided by Pambula District Hospital (PDH) and neighbouring facilities.
The future of PDH is no longer in doubt.
That battle has now been won.
Moreover, from 2016 or soon thereafter, the new regional hospital at Bega is promising a substantial improvement of services along the Far South Coast; fewer patients will have to join waiting lists in Canberra, Sydney or Melbourne.
We are now in the constructive phase in which the committee chaired by Les Stahl explores what services PDH should appropriately provide to our growing local population centre and tourist hub.
This means first and foremost the maintenance of 24/7 Emergency: a place where a boy with snake bite in Ben Boyd National Park can be taken, where your wife drives you with suspected kidney stone pains, where a little girl can be assessed whether she suffers from a broken foot or a sprain, or a hotel owner can direct a guest whose relative fainted in the middle of the night.
Emergency will require back-up with hospital beds and an operating theatre.
The Stahl committee now has before it a report that Emergency at Pambula should be closed because it is deemed of insufficient quality.
The report was written by an expert chosen by senior health administrators.
It is of course a familiar bureaucratic ploy to get hand-picked experts who stipulate utopian standards and then recommend withdrawal of services.
The political and administrative decision makers must, however, be aware that the vast majority of local citizens have been happy with, and grateful for, the Emergency services at PDH, at least as a first point of access to treatment and triage.
The knowledge that such an Emergency service exists nearby is important to the general feeling of wellbeing among the local citizenry.
Would it not be utterly perverse to conclude that the service we highly value is no longer good enough, so that we must be deprived of it completely?
Having said this, the community should be content that PDH will survive and indeed may be cautiously optimistic that it has the potential to grow into a substantive local health centre, which serves as a satellite of the new regional hospital –– similar to the impressive, locally-managed Orbost health centre, which interacts with the regional Bairnsdale hospital.
This gives us a chance to contribute all-important knowledge about local conditions and to mobilise material support of the sort evident yet again in the fantastic Marina Prior fundraiser on July 26.
PDH is OUR hospital after all – and not a negligible, redundant appendix of an anonymous central command-and-control health system.