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."