Save the Wesley hydro pool!

May 18, 2007

Holding placards stating "Save the pool" and "Uniting Care doesn't care", hydrotherapy patients, many of them elderly people and in wheelchairs, gathered outside Uniting Care Health in Rosalie on May 17 to oppose the proposed closure of the Wesley Hydrotherapy Centre.

The rally was part of a campaign that has gathered over 400 signatures of users angered by reports that the centre will be shut down to make way for a multi-storey building, including a car park and acute care rooms.

The users are concerned that economics are being put ahead of care. Rally participant Tim Campbell told Green Left Weekly that the pool "may well run at a loss but it provides 500 people with crucial care". The net result of the development will be only an extra 74 beds for high-paying customers, with many multi-bed wards being refurbished to accommodate fewer people in more spacious and private rooms.

The petition states: "Hydrotherapy … has given real quality of life, increased mobility and function, reduced pain and given hope to those who have been ill, battling disease, injury or disability."

Campbell explained that the pool helps keep people out of acute care. The hospital claims that a new hydrotherapy centre will be built, but according to Campbell, "Closing the centre for even a month could push many of these people into acute care". The community wants to ensure that a new hydrotherapy centre is built before the old one is closed.

One of the rally organisers, wheelchair-bound Glenda McAllister, expressed concern about a "decision-making process that is at odds with the espoused mission and values of the Uniting Church", which runs the hospital. According to the Uniting Care website, "The needs of individuals, communities and society shape our … services, advocacy and community development … Our commitment is to service which responds to the needs of the whole person".

Many patients have posted their stories to . One such posting states: "This is the fourth pool I will be thrown out of now and I am really stressed, upset and angry. At 2 I was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy. At 11 my orthopaedic specialist attempted to correct my scolios with 3 major spinal operations. I was flat on my back for 2 years in hospital … After many years using their hydrotherapy pool I was told not to return because I didn't have Multiple Sclerosis. I then started using the Holy Spirit Hospital Hydro pool only to be kicked out of there as well. Then I went to the St Andrews Hydrotherapy Pool and once again kicked out of there. So I went to the Wesley Hydro pool and low and behold it's happening again … They have no idea what it is like to be in a wheelchair … my only freedom is in the hydro pool."

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