Hospital group plans a public campaign
By ED SOUTHORN SAVE the Murwillumbah Hospital Commitee leader Ian Ross yesterday warned of a public protest campaign if guarantees are not given to keep the hospital operating at full strength. Mr Ross' committee will write to North Coast Area Health Service chief Chris Crawford, due to return from holidays next week, asking for the guarantee. Depending on the reply, the committee will then decide how best to campaign publicly to keep the much-loved hospital. "We want an answer about the hospital's future," Mr Ross said. "There will be an official letter and we want a response." Mr Ross said the public campaign could range from a massive letter-writing and petitioning effort to a "big protest" and other initiatives. He said last week's protest meeting attended by almost 200 people might be just the beginning of a public campaign to support Murwillumbah District Hospital, if the North Coast Area Health Service continued its downgrading plans. Mr Ross was speaking at the South Tweed Sports Club to NSW Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell, who visited the Tweed yesterday and met the Murwillumbah hospital supporters. Mr O'Farrell told the group that Tweed people "deserved certainty" about the future of Murwillumbah Hospital. "You can't run a health department with question marks over a hospital," Mr O'Farrell said. He attacked Labor's centralisation of hospital administrations for preventing local hospital operators doing "what they know is best for their communities", especially in rapidly growing areas like the Tweed. Mr O'Farrell promised the Coalition would restore local administrative control to hospitals. He told Mr Ross' group they would "need to be vigilant" to help keep Murwillumbah hospital at full strength, noting his local Horsnby hospital had been saved from downgrading 10 years ago after a save-the-hospital committee was formed. The Opposition Leader blamed Premier Morris Iemma, when he was health minister, for introducing large area health services which had increased the power of area health chiefs like Mr Crawford.