October 21 - 27, 2018: Issue 380


Independent Win in Wentworth Sends a Warning over Mona Vale Hospital as Campaign Continues

Prof. Kerryn Phelps AM last night.

October 21, 2018

The loss of the federal seat of Wentworth by the Liberal Party in yesterday’s by-election should be a warning to the Coalition over its plans for Mona Vale Hospital, campaigners for acute services at the facility said today.

Save Mona Vale Hospital chairman Parry Thomas said the win in Wentworth by Independent Kerryn Phelps – who grew up in Newport – should be a wake-up call to the NSW government.

“The same attitude toward the needs and wishes of the local community that has caused the federal government to lose the critical seat of Wentworth has been displayed by the state government when dealing with the community over Mona Vale Hospital,” Mr Thomas told Pittwater Online News.

The campaign is fighting the state government’s decision to close all acute services at Mona Vale Hospital – including emergency, surgery, intensive care and maternity – when the new Northern Beaches Hospital at Frenchs Forest opens at the end of the month.

However, Pittwater MP Rob Stokes revealed an apparent change of heart over the emergency department at Mona Vale Hospital in an announcement on Friday

“My job is to listen to our community and take action,” Mr Stokes said in a statement.

“That’s why I’m calling on health authorities to make further enhancements to ensure an Emergency Department will continue as part of the redevelopment and modernisation of Mona Vale Hospital.”

Mr Thomas said the announcement offered hope to the community but the Save Mona Vale Hospital campaign would continue unabated. 

“The community has a right to be sceptical about the statement because in recent years Mr Stokes has continued to support the removal of all acute services from the hospital,” Mr Thomas said.

“At this point it’s not about promises or appeals to his cabinet colleagues – it’s about achieving concrete results for the community.”

Mr Stokes and NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard came under pressure this week from revelations that the new hospital is having problems recruiting enough doctors.

Medicos were taking legal action in the Industrial Relations Commission against Northern Beaches Hospital’s operator Healthscope and the NSW Health Department, Seven News reported on Monday.

If the doctors did not sign the contracts they had been offered, the hospital would not have enough staff to open, Australian Salaried Medical Officers Federation spokesman Dr Tony Sara told Seven News. 

Last Sunday, thousands of residents joined a rally at Mona Vale Village Green, hosted by MC, actor and activist Shane Withington, after the most direct route to the new hospital - the Wakehurst Parkway - closed due to flooding from rain overnight. The rally was followed by a march to Mona Vale Hospital.

 Shane Withington at MVH Rally

Mr. Parry and residents outside the Mona vale Hospital ED last Sunday

In addition to Mr Thomas, speakers at the rally included Sea Eagles footy legend Max Brown.

The former winger recounted his experience of a heart attack last October and how Mona Vale Hospital saved his life in the nick of time before transfer to Royal North Shore Hospital.

“Now I can assure you that from what I was told at that hospital (RNS), if I had not had that intervention, the immediate treatment at Mona Vale Hospital, I would have died,” Mr Brown told the rally.

“… And I hope Mr Stokes you listen to that because it could be your mother, your children, your father, your aunt, your uncle, it could be anyone of us because we won’t have a facility to save lives.”

Max Brown speaking at the MVH Rally

Doula Helena Mooney, from Friends of Northern Beaches Maternity Services, called for retention of maternity services at Mona Vale Hospital.

Ms Mooney said public maternity services at the new hospital would be run by a private company and obstetrician-led - which would cause higher rates of intervention than midwife led births in public hospitals.

“We’re also really concerned about women birthing on the side of the road,” Ms Mooney told the crowd.

“The increased distance that you’re now going to have to travel to birth your babies is significant.”

Helena Mooney speaking at the MVH Rally

Pledges to support the fight for acute services at Mona Vale Hospital by Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party MLCs, Robert Borsak and Robert Brown as well as the NSW Greens were announced at the rally.

NSW Greens health spokeswoman Dawn Walker on Thursday moved a motion in State Parliament calling on the NSW Government to reverse its decision to downgrade Mona Vale Hospital and continue to provide acute and emergency services at the site.

The Save Mona Vale Hospital campaign began in 2000 when Pittwater residents first discovered the NSW government’s intention to close Mona Vale Hospital. The fight continued until Mr Stokes’ election to the NSW Parliament, promising to save the hospital.

However, the campaign was reignited earlier this year by the Protect Pittwater Association – set up to recover Pittwater Council after its amalgamation – recognising the former council had in the past supported the Save Mona Vale Hospital group.

By Miranda Korzy, 
Save Mona Vale Hospital Committee

Section of the crowd in Mona Vale's Village Park last Sunday. 

                                                                 Outside Mona Vale Hospital after the March. Photos A J Guesdon.