Doubts about Bowral Hospital's renal unit

HAPPIER TIMES: SHRA member Sarah Edmonds and Wollondilly MP Jai Rowell on the day Bowral's renal service was announced.
HAPPIER TIMES: SHRA member Sarah Edmonds and Wollondilly MP Jai Rowell on the day Bowral's renal service was announced.

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There’s still a cloud of doubt surrounding Bowral Hospital’s highly-anticipated renal unit. 

Despite the announcement more than three months ago that a dialysis service would be constructed at the hospital, the details remain unclear. 

The Southern Highlands Renal Appeal (SHRA), who have raised more than $700,000 for the unit, met with the South Western Sydney Local Health District (SWSLHD) on February 6 to discuss planning. 

SHRA members Geoff Byrne and Bob Barrett left the meeting disappointed after being told construction would not begin until after the current hospital redevelopment had finished. 

That’s the commitment the NSW health minister and I made to this community and I can assure you I’m not waiting two bloody years for that service.

Wollondilly MP Jai Rowell

The redevelopment began in December 2017 and is scheduled to be completed in 2020. 

This is contrary to what SWSLHD told Southern Highland News in January, stating “the planning and development of the new renal services will occur alongside the redevelopment.”

In another statement supplied to the News on February 9, a Bowral hospital spokesperson said “work has commenced to plan for the new service”, however did not confirm or deny that construction would begin after the hospital redevelopment was completed. 

Wollondilly MP Jai Rowell said he “would not be waiting two years for a renal service” at Bowral and District Hospital.

“That is certainly not good enough, I will do everything in my power to make sure that renal service comes up as soon as possible, that’s the commitment from the NSW Government,” Mr Rowell said. 

“That’s the commitment the NSW health minister and I made to this community and I can assure you I’m not waiting two bloody years for that service.

“It’s needed and it’s needed now so watch this space; my job is to fix it up and I will.” 

At the meeting both Mr Barrett and Mr Byrne asked whether the dialysis chair at Bowral Hospital could be used in the meantime, but said the SWSLHD were not willing to facilitate this. 

”[They] said they had only received a couple of calls over many years [to use this chair] and these patients were too ‘dependant’ to qualify for the service available,” Mr Byrne said. 

Transport to and from the Highlands to dialysis services in Fairfield, Liverpool and Campbelltown was also discussed at the meeting. 

Mr Byrne said SWSLHD had been paying for taxis to transport patients to and from appointments. 

“The costs associated with that must be huge,” he said.

A Bowral and Distric Hospital spokesperson confirmed that “patients continue to be supported and staff have met with these patients to identify suitable transport options, including taxis, that meet their individual needs.”

While construction of the renal unit is believed to begin after the redevelopment of the hospital finishes in 2020, “planning work” for the unit had began. 

The first consultative committee, with community representation, will take place on March 1, 2018. This group will assist in informing the service needs and requirements of the new service.

Despite this, Mr Byrne said SHRA was “disappointed” the original commitments had not fallen into place as expected. 

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