Coledale Hospital picket imposed
By Polly McDonald
WOLLONGONG — The South Coast Labour Council (SCLC) has imposed a 24-hour a day picket on Coledale Hospital, in the northern suburbs, until the state elections on March 25, in order to stop the removal of equipment by the Illawarra Area Health Service (IAHS).
Addressing a rally of 120 people to mark the start of the picket on January 14, SCLC secretary Paul Matters said that the IAHS had used the tactic of stripping Kiama Hospital, leaving only a gutted shell when it was officially closed against local public opinion.
The IAHS proposes closing Coledale, which has a reputation as a centre of excellence in rehabilitative medicine and geriatrics, and moving its services to Illawarra Regional Hospital Port Kembla, after accident and emergency and all surgical services are closed there.
Coledale Hospital was built by the local community and miners, and is situated high on a headland with magnificent ocean views right down the coast. In 1990 the IAHS sold a large area of escarpment land adjacent to the hospital for $47,000, claiming that it was zoned "slippage" and therefore could not be built on. Four housing blocks have already been approved and should fetch at least $120,000 each for the developer.
Speaking at the rally, Ronnie Peary, from the Health Committee of the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Associations, pointed out that the closure of Coledale Hospital was not just a local issue. "Hospitals all over the state are being privatised" she said.
Bill Wiley, from the Retired Miners Association and the Save Our Hospitals Committee, also urged people in the Illawarra to show a lead in the fight against hospital privatisations across the state by supporting the picket: "An ounce of action is worth a million words". Although services in the area have been cut, he said services in country areas had been "cut to the bloody bone".
Volunteers for the picket roster should ring Mike Dwyer on (042) 672 111.