The Guardian June 16, 1999


More closures at hospital that's "not closing"

The closure of two rehabilitation departments at Sydney's Prince Henry 
Hospital (PHH) has angered hospital staff, who say the State Government has 
broken its repeated promises that the hospital is not being run down for 
eventual closure.

Last month, a senior executive from Prince Henry/Prince of Wales hospital 
administration visited PHH and delivered an order closing down the two key 
facilities. According to the official, the two buildings housing the rehab 
services had become so run down that they now posed a fire hazard.

Shortly after the closure, angry members of the local action group (Friends 
of Prince Henry), hospital staff and patients, many in wheel chairs, held a 
demonstration outside the hospital at Malabar, calling on the Government to 
"save our hospital".

Staff have accused the Government of deliberately closing the facilities 
because the area health service is reported to be $30-$50 million over 
budget, although the area health service has denied this.

A joint statement from staff said that as a result of the closures rehab 
patients have had most of their vital therapy stopped since Thursday, May 
20.

"South-Eastern Area Health Service has not maintained them because they 
want PHH to close", said the statement.

These closures join a long list of ward closures, bed cuts and removal of 
facilities from PHH. For many years the hospital has been fighting against 
its piece-by-piece downgrading from a fully-functional hospital to its 
current role as a "back-up" facility for the near-by Prince of Wales 
Hospital.

This downgrading has occurred under both Liberal and Labor Governments and 
has been accompanied by denials that the hospital is being deliberately run 
down or will close.

In January this year, NSW Premier Bob Carr unveiled plans to lease part of 
the hospital's grounds, under a 99-year lease, to a private developer to 
build residential housing and a shopping village.

The land occupied by the hospital is much sought-after prime, inner Sydney 
coastal real estate. It is eyed by developers as an excellent site for 
residential or commercial development.

However, it is also an excellent site for a hospital, especially one that 
specialises in rehabilitation for patients recovering from serious car 
accidents or occupational injury.

"After being in a hospital ward, it's great to get out and enjoy the open 
grounds and fresh air", said a patient who broke his neck in a surfing 
accident at Bondi.

A former fireman, who is now wheelchair-bound after falling from the roof 
of one of Sydney's hail damaged homes, agreed.

"This is the best possible environment for rehabilitation, with all the 
trees and grass it's very pleasant", he said. "But money needs to be spent 
on the place because compared to St George Hospital, where I was before, 
it's a dump."

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