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Rehab unit officially opened

Northern NSW Local Health District’s chief executive, Wayne Jones (far left), and federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan officially opened Maclean District Hospital’s new 10-bed rehabilitation unit last Friday June 2. They were joined by staff, members of the Maclean Lower Clarence Hospital Auxiliary and Yaegl elder Aunty Muriel Burns. Image: Geoff Helisma.
It was an auspicious occasion at the Maclean District Hospital when the long-awaited official opening of the new 10-bed rehabilitation unit was performed by Wayne Jones, the Northern NSW Local Health District’s chief executive, and federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan. The event began with a Welcome to Country by Yaegl elder Aunty Muriel Burns. She recalled days gone by when Aboriginal people “had to stay outside” when they were hospitalised, while reflecting on how things have improved over recent decades. She told those gathered that she remembered seeing her “Mum out there on the veranda … we had to bring blankets for her; but that has all changed now for the good”. “We can all go together,” she said. A minute’s silence was observed in appreciation of the “elders who had taught” younger generations the “right way and not to be prejudiced”. “Thank you for opening the way for us and our kids,” she said, to a round of applause. Mr Jones said the rehab unit would complement the valley’s health system by reducing the need to go to what were the nearest rehabilitation centres in Ballina or Coffs Harbour. He praised the unit’s enthusiastic staff, clinical specialists, carers and volunteers, as did Mr Hogan, who also acknowledged the “money raised and care given”, by the volunteer members of the hospital’s auxiliary. The rehab unit provides co-ordinated care by a multidisciplinary team including medical, nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology and social work practitioners. The unit has single and double rooms, all with en-suite facilities, a fully equipped therapy gym, a spacious dining room and kitchen for group activities and social interaction, and a courtyard garden designed to provide patients with opportunities to practise regaining normal functions in a domestic setting. Patients at the unit receive individualised rehabilitation programs designed to provide them with tailored therapy to suit their particular needs. Former member for Page, Janelle Saffin, told the Independent after the event that she had “got every cent” of $3.7million that then NSW parliamentary secretary for Regional Health, Melinda Pavey, announced at the official opening of the hospital’s upgraded emergency department in November 2011 – construction began in 2012. Ms Saffin said that she began lobbying for the upgrade after being approached by the hospital’s auxiliary and health advocate and campaigner Jim Agnew. At the time, however, Ms Saffin’s electorate did not include Maclean; it was then located in Cowper MP Luke Hartsuyker’s electorate. Ms Saffin first made it public that she was interacting with the hospital’s auxiliary in a June 3, 2009 speech in parliament. “While Maclean District Hospital sits just outside my electorate of Page, in Cowper, thousands of my constituents in the Lower Clarence rely on it,” she said, noting that the “ladies of the Maclean Lower Clarence Hospital Auxiliary have written to me”.