The recent disastrous bushfires raging around Taree as a result of the Hillville fire should highlight the need for an Acute Care Hospital at Taree. The Pacific Highway was closed between Cundletown and Nabiac, between Taree and Bulahdelah, road closures occurred on the Lakesway and Failford Road all at unpredictable times and the Oxley Highway was shut at Port Macquarie. It has truly been a time of real terror and destruction. Taree and its hospital-dependent population of 94 000 people suddenly found itself isolated at the height of these fires. This population includes the close-knit communities of Wingham, Tinonee, Harrington, Coopernook, John’s River, Hallidays Point, Rainbow Flat, Gloucester, Bulahdelah and Tea Gardens as well as Taree and Forster-Tuncurry, Old Bar and all our surrounding villages. Manning Hospital needs to be prepared and fully equipped at all times to deal with emergencies.

The Manning Great Lakes Community Health Action Group is now entering its 4th year. The Annual General Meeting was held on October 28th at Black Head Surf Club and the new committee was elected.

President – Eddie Wood
Vice President and Treasurer – Peter Johanson
Secretary – Carmel Bartlett
Committee members – Helen Halpin, Alan Tickle, Tom McDonald, Trish Wood, Dr David Keegan

This committee encompasses a broad representation of the community with expertise in Health – a doctor, two paramedics, two nurses; Risk Management; Accountancy and Financial Planning; Local Government; Education.

The MGLCHAG with over 1 000 supporting members has the highest regard for the staff at Manning Hospital. A current petition with more than 7 000 signatures to date represents people in the community who are concerned about the present state of the Manning Hospital, its status and its resources.

The focus of the committee this year is to keep the community informed and to put pressure on the Hunter New England Local Health District and all political parties to bring Manning Hospital back up to the minimum level of an Acute Care hospital as was the major recommendation in Professor Balogh’s (Head of Trauma JHH) trauma verification report conducted in 2017. Should the Manning Hospital be brought up to that level, the issues of services, recruiting, retaining and educating Staff and servicing the community in a manner it expects and deserves would be addressed. It is imperative that the Manning Hospital has an ICU, Emergency Department and Cath Lab that are fully staffed and operational with an MRI on site.

“Grow Our Own” is a potential solution. It means that local students who graduate in medicine or nursing or in any of the allied health professions be provided with strong incentives to return to their home town/area to both train and work. The Health Action Group strongly advocates that the incentives provided include scholarships and/or HECS discounting under the umbrella of a strategic indentured bonding program made available for our local young people. While both the National Party and Country Labor claim to have empathy for regional Australia, the Health Group believes that, with both Federal and State Members for Lyne and Myall Lakes  being from the same party, there ought to be the opportunity for meaningful policy reviews that address health service challenges for regional areas such as Mid Coast.  Unless the staffing issue is addressed, regional areas such as Manning Great Lakes will continue to suffer.

The Clinical Services Plan which expired in 2017 needs to be reviewed and brought up to date with short, medium and long term goals, supported by a strong business and action plan rather than adhoc spending when money is handed out with a political end in mind. The hospital-dependent community needs to have a time line, a plan of works and related costings set out clearly to ensure that the hospital redevelopment is completed in its entirety in an orderly fashion. The community also needs to be assured that the funds that have been promised are actually going to be delivered.

MGLCHAG is an apolitical group which has met with local State member, Stephen Bromhead, local Federal member, Dr  David Gillespie, Leslie Williams, Walt Secord, Luke Foley and Michael Daley. In addition, we have met with Michael Di Rienzo, CEO HNELHD, Lyn Fragar – Chair of the Board HNEH, Karen Kelly – DON HNEH, Jodie Nieass – CEO Manning Hospital. Approaches have been made to Mid Coast Council for its assistance and  correspondence has been sent on numerous occasions to Health Minister, Brad Hazzard. The Group has given presentations to many local community groups on the state of the hospital, the pressure under which Staff is having to work and the expectations the community should justifiably have for the standard of its local hospital. 

The Health Action Group now plans to approach again Hunter New England Health and all representatives of both State and Federal Government in the hope that politics can be set aside. It is hoped that the decision makers, the politicians, the bureaucrats and Manning Hospital Staff, can work together for the betterment of Manning Hospital and the benefit of the Manning Great Lakes Community. 

Committee, MGLCHAG, November 2019

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