Picket opposes hospital closure
By Stephen O'Brien
NEWCASTLE — More than 300 people gathered outside the NSW Industrial Commission offices here on September 4 to demonstrate community support for keeping Wallsend Hospital open.
The commission hearing had been initiated by the Hunter Area Health Board to order staff to transfer patients and equipment from the hospital. A round-the-clock community and trade union picket has been maintained at the hospital since August 19.
Newcastle Trades Hall Council secretary Peter Barrack pointed out to the rally that the staff are not on strike. The board is refusing to pay the wages of staff caring for the 41 remaining patients at Wallsend.
Although expressing sympathy for public concern over the issue, the commissioner recommended compliance with the board's orders. Staff have decided to accept transfer for those so far reassigned. However, the picket is pledged to continue.