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Community First- How we Won the Fight For Children’s Health in the East

By Dr Marjorie O'Neill, Member for Coogee on September 8, 2020 in Other

Nice work Marj. Photo: Dee Fibrilator

The focus of much of our health-related discussions this year have concerned COVID-19 and associated matters like our huge indebtedness to those workers at the front line protecting us.
I am also very aware that while our broad community focus has been on dealing with the threats posed by this once-in-a-hundred-year pandemic, many of us have had to deal with health issues like life-threatening illnesses and even deaths. I know we all feel deeply for those having to deal with such difficult and painful experiences in the context of social distancing and other implications of COVID-19.
There has also been some good news on the health front right here in the East and it is especially important that we take a moment to acknowledge and appreciate this success in what might otherwise be a fairly gloomy context.
As many readers of The Beast will be aware, the state government last year announced plans to shut down the children’s cardiac unit at Prince of Wales Hospital (POW) in Randwick, which would have meant the only cardiac services for kids across all of the Sydney metropolitan area would have been at Westmead.
Our local community was rightfully up in arms about these plans. I, like many of you, have friends and family across our local area who have newborn and infant babies whose health is paramount to us all.
While we strongly support children’s cardiac services at Westmead, we know that in a growing metropolis the size of Sydney there is a desperate need to retain such vital health services in the eastern part of the city as well as in the west. A one-hour commute across Sydney could determine whether a child lives or dies.
A great many people here in the Eastern Suburbs and beyond stood up and strongly spoke out against the Berejiklian government proposal. I was proud to be part of those efforts, helping to set up a petition to save these services at Prince of Wales Hospital, and thousands of people signed up.
After fantastic campaigning from members of the community, earlier this year the government relented – for now at least – and pledged to continue with children’s cardiac services at Randwick. We should celebrate this outcome, but the fight is not fully over and done with just yet. Even now, over half a year on, funding is yet to be allocated to make the government’s promise a reality.
All eyes must be on the 2020 New South Wales state budget, which is soon to be delivered. As your local MP, I will continue to hold the government to account on its promise to maintain our vital health and other services in the East.
The fight to preserve our children’s cardiac unit at POW in Randwick serves as a stark reminder that as a community we must all be vigilant when it comes to protecting important services, but it also provides a glimmer of hope that community action can achieve better outcomes. Imagine, community-led public policy – now there’s an idea!