Hospital land sale sparks public outcry

More than 250 angry residents rallied at Maclean District Hospital last month to protest the North Coast Area Health Service’s (NCAHS) proposed sell-off of hospital land.

Maclean resident and former nurse Judith Little fears that funds from the sale at will be funnelled away to cash-strapped Grafton and Port Macquarie Base Hospitals, rather than go back into the local hospital.

‘We were shocked to hear about this sale. I pray it isn’t a short-term cash-flow solution by the health department at the expense of our community’s long-term future,’ she said.

The NCAHS has put three hospital blocks up for tender without public consultation, leaving residents fearful it could signal the beginning of the end for the hospital.

In a written statement, the NCAHS said that even after the sale there was still room for expansion and proceeds from the sale would go to Maclean’s ED upgrade – provided it costed less than $250,000.

‘We all know the properties are worth much more than $250,000 – and how far will that go anyway? It’s like spending $250 dollars renovating your kitchen. This is not worth the loss to the community. Anyway, all money raised in town should stay in town.

Ms Little said the only other hospital land available for extensions was fragile wetland.

‘When you think of how Maclean is growing, why would you want to cut back? We don’t even have enough parking at the hospital now.
‘Chris Crawford [NCAHS chief executive] told us not to worry and that the sale was important for our future. If it is so important why weren’t we told? He’s not a warm and fuzzy guy – he is a company man doing company business and this is a community issue about trust and faith.

‘We’re not so much opposed to the sale, as long as it is above board and done in consultation with the community.

‘We all use the space. It is a green oasis of calm where patients and their families take time out. It is also the only sealed access to town from the nearby nursing home. Last time the park was closed I had to take my wheelchair-bound mother-in-law by the alternate route that is so rough it left her in tears.

‘Why hasn’t Crawford broached the issue with the council? This is an important community space that should be retained for the community.’

Nurses at Maclean were reluctant to speak publicly about the issue.