Health services in Albury Wodonga have been struggling to meet the demand.
With patients forced to wait on a metal bench outside due to a lack of resources, and long ambulance wait times, something needed to be done.
The call was answered by hundreds of Albury Wodonga residents who flocked together to rally a Gateway Island on Sunday. They demanded a new single-site hospital to deliver more efficient health care to the community.
Healthcare workers who attended the rally shared and listened to stories about the dreadful current working conditions under the region’s two hospitals.
Border Medical Association chairwoman and anaesthetist Barbara Robertson said, “I have been a doctor for 40 years and I have never seen anything like what we have got at the moment.”
Hopes of realising the need for a new hospital and making it a reality were shattered a couple of weeks ago after the project was not allocated funding in the Victorian state budget.
But the people of the region are hopeful that their voices will be heard.
Critical care nurse Kim Cole said, “I love caring for people and I love delivering a level of health care that I am proud of, and every day, we struggle to deliver that level of healthcare. And it’s not because of nurses or access to resources like doctors, it’s because we struggle in the sites that we are working in.”
Nurse Geoff Hudson shared his frustrations as well, “We need a new hospital because we shouldn’t have to take off out Covid contaminated PPE (personal protection equipment) outside in the rain.”
Another rally at the same location in 2010 where 1400 people turned out as part of an ongoing, successful effort to secure $70 million in funding from the Federal Government for the Regional Cancer Centre in Albury Wodonga is a clear precedent.
Better Border Health, an apolitical group was launched a couple of weeks ago to secure a minimum of 5000 signatures on a petition calling for a new Albury Wodonga hospital.
Deputy chair David Clancy who attended the launch emphasised the importance of the rally.
Both Victorian and New South Wales politicians have accused the Victorian government of withholding the master plan which would outline the design for the hospital as well as construction costs and a way forward.
Jaclyn Symes, MP for Northern Victoria said that the master plan was underway but had not been completed.
“Albury Wodonga Health, NSW Health, and Victorian Health Departments are still at the table working on this process. It’s incomplete at this stage.” Ms Symes said.
Sussan Ley, MP for Farrer lodged a freedom of information request seeking a copy of the document that she said was completed last year from the Victorian Health Department.
Matthew Guy, Victorian Opposition Leader suggested that the government needed to put its differences with other leaders aside to get the best outcomes for Victorians.
“We have a hospital crisis because the state government in Victoria has almost no proper relationship with the NSW counterparts,” he said.
Mr Guy attended Wodonga in April to hear from community members about their experiences in the hospital system.
Ms Symes said although the budget did not address infrastructure needs for the local health service, the region would benefit from the employment of an additional 7,000 healthcare workers across the state.
Dr Robertson said, “I’m not sure where they’re going to get 7,000 new healthcare workers from. Everywhere is so short, we are talking about the whole state.”
“While we are glad there’s an emphasis on the triple 0 services and improving that, that doesn’t do anything to improve our situation without lack of beds and nursing staff right now.”