Health & Care

$500,000 proposed for Condobolin Hospital upgrades

Members of the United Hospitals Auxiliary Condobolin Branch outside Condobolin Hospital's dilapidated nursing quarters. L-R: Mary Glen, Jill Broadley, Dawn Thomas, Francis Gavel and Joan Jamieson. DG

By Dominic Geiger

Member for Murrumbidgee, Adrian Piccoli, has announced $500,000 has been proposed for much needed upgrades to the Condobolin Hospital.

The upgrades will allow for improvements to be made to the hospital’s wards including painting, floor coverings, soft furnishings and air-conditioning.

The announcement comes after members of the United Hospitals Auxiliary Condobolin Branch established contact with Mr Piccoli earlier this year with a number of letters voicing the group’s concern about the existing problems affecting the hospital.

Last Friday, Mr Piccoli made representation for the group to the NSW Health Minister, Jillian Skinner.

“I am very hopeful that we might see some funding flow to the works that are so desperately needed at the hospital shortly,” Mr Piccoli said.

“The concerns of the Auxiliary have now been examined and the Minister has responded.

“I was informed that Condobolin has recently had $145,000 in expenditure to upgrade duress alarms for patient and staff security.

“In addition, Condobolin has been listed with another 18 facilities on the current Asset Strategic Plan for future capital investment.”

Hospital Auxiliary treasurer, Francis Gavel, said the group was incredibly grateful Mr Piccoli had helped bring the problems at the hospital to Ms Skinner’s attention.

She also said however, that the group had been raising concerns about the hospital for the past ten years and that one of the group’s principal concerns, the state of the hospital’s nursing quarters, looked as though it might miss out on funding.

“The auxiliary sent a letter [to Mr Piccoli] in March which was mainly in regards to the poor condition of the nurses’ quarters,” she said.

“There have been various replies over the months and in the latest development there has been money allocated but not to the nurses’ quarters.

“The trouble is that maintenance has been left over the years and things that should have been done haven’t been.

“There are five single nurses’ complexes in the nursing quarter which are very shabby and very neglected.

“The hospital will never get staff if we don’t have decent accommodation facilities to offer them.

“It’s difficult to get nursing staff in the country as it is; we won’t get people from other areas if there’s no where to stay here.”

Minister Constance speaks at Yawarra

Minister Constance listens to concerns from locals. DG

By Dominic Geiger

The NSW Minister for Ageing and Disability Services, Andrew Constance, held a public seminar at Condobolin’s Yawarra Aboriginal Corporation last Wednesday to discuss ways the state government could improve services for Aboriginal people with a disability.

Condobolin’s Googar dancers welcomed the minister to Yawarra with a song and dance performance.

The seminar, which was organised through the Aboriginal Disability Network NSW, was part of Mr Constance’s ongoing tour of a number of Western NSW towns during which he hopes to gather community feedback on the best way to implement reforms to state disability services.

Mr Constance said the focus of the reforms was to put disability funding in the hands of the individual with a disability, their carers and family.

“What we’re doing as the new Government is reforming disability support so rather than funding disability services, we’re going to provide the funding on an individual basis,” he said.

“This will mean [the person with a disability] can pick and choose their services rather than be dictated to.”

Mr Constance said the seminars would also help him gain an understanding into the needs of disabled people living in rural and remote areas of the state.

“Our aim is to put people back at the heart of decision making and to try and drive greater services available to particularly those living in Aboriginal communities and those who are in rural and remote areas.”

“I’m at Yawarra to hear from the Aboriginal community directly about the needs of people with disabilities around Condobolin as well as the Western Plains and Central West,” he said.

While speaking to the crowd of approximately 150 people, Mr Constance said the current state of disability services in NSW was “stuffed” and there “are a million and one issues you probably want to bend my ear about.”

Despite this, he said the situation was improving.

“With the new Government we have the opportunity for $20 billion of growth funding which we’ll be rolling out over the coming years to try and better meet the needs of people with disabilities living in rural and remote areas,” he said.

After announcing the proposed reforms, Mr Constance fielded questions and concerns from the audience.

Currajong disabilities Manager, Ann Hunter, said while the proposed individualised funding might work in metropolitan areas, it may create difficulties for people in remote areas.

“It may not be enough for servicing one family if the person lives on a farm and has to travel large distances for treatment,” she said.

“We have only one client in Lake Cargelligo and it’s difficult to provide her with services because it costs so much.

“The lack of numbers [of disabled people in certain rural areas] will create problems; one model doesn’t fit all.

“We need to work together in the country.”

Coordinator at Yawarra Aboriginal Corporation, Brian Clemson, said it was a privilege for Yawarra to host the seminar.

“There are a lot of carers here to talk about the gaps in disability care that exist in Condobolin,” he said.

“One of the main things we’re trying to achieve is emergency overnight accommodation in the town.

“We are also trying to establish full time, culturally appropriate accommodation for elders and people with disabilities under an Aboriginal banner.”

Left: Condobolin’s Googar Dancers. Right: Representatives from Condobolin’s Yawarra Aboriginal Corporation and the Aboriginal Disability Network NSW. DG

Quota offers hope for hearing

The Condobolin branch of Quota International has its ear to the ground this month with volunteers aiming to collect discarded ‘behind the ear’ hearing aids to help their fellow Quotarians in Ba, Fiji, give the gift of hearing to impoverished people in their village.

The campaign is being held in the lead up to National Hearing Week, set to take place from August 21 to August 27.

Vice President of Quota Condobolin, Ros L’Estrange, said it didn’t matter if the hearing aids were in working order or not, as Tom Shepherd, an audiometrist working in Ba, can make a good hearing aid from three discarded ones.

“Many people in Fiji have hearing problems as there is no vaccination program for rubella as we have here, and little or no help from their government,” she said.

“So check to see if you or any of your friends have any old ‘behind the ear’ hearing aids and just bring them down to Shortis and Timmins Pharmacy where we have a collection box.

“It is a simple way to give a wonderful gift, the gift of hearing, to disadvantaged people.”

Teaming up to tackle men’s mental health issues

The Richmond Fellowship of New South Wales, the Parkes Spacemen Football Club and Parkes Shire Deputy Mayor John Magill are launching ‘men only’ information evening in Parkes, enabling central western men to learn about the signs and symptoms of mental illness amongst males in rural settings.

It’s believed the evening is the first of its kind in Central Western New South Wales.

WHEN: 11.30am, Thursday 4th August, 2011

WHERE: Cooke Park, Clarinda St Parkes.

The ‘men only’ evening will be held at the Broadway Hotel, Parkes, on Thursday 18th August at 7.00pm.

Guest speakers – including sufferers of depression and alcoholism – will bravely talk about battles with mental illness and what men in rural areas can do to help themselves of family and friends who may be suffering.

The RFNSW is a not-for-profit organisation providing recovery focussed support programs, accommodation and hope for people with mental illness. Advocating community-based assistance, it is a foremost mental health support provider that has been in operation for more than 30 years.

Did you hear about the hearing van?

Central West Manager for Australian Hearing, Sunila Kumar, checks Delma Brennan’s hearing. DGBy Dominic Geiger

The Australian Hearing bus was on site in Bathurst Street, Condobolin, last Wednesday afternoon to offer residents the chance to test their hearing ability and to emphasise the importance of regular hearing checkups.

Condobolin resident and former childcare worker, Delma Brennan, said hearing tests were important for people of all ages.

“In an area like this that doesn’t have established hearing services, it’s incredibly important to check kids’ hearing before a certain age,” she said.

“If you don’t, the children retaliate against their frustration of not being able to hear with anger.

“I think it’s a great thing bringing this service to Condobolin.”

Australian Hearing Manager for the Central West, Sunila Kumar, said the van was set up on Condobolin’s main street in order to provide a visual effect in order to encourage people to get their hearing tested.

“If people see the van in a very public place they’re more likely to act on impulse and step inside,” she said.

“Even young people who have ok hearing drop by and they leave with a sense of confidence after they’re told their hearing is fine.” Sunila said the hearing van often provided 40 to 60 people with hearing checks each time it visited a new town.

“We’re really trying to get people to take their hearing seriously,” she said.

“We’re trying to get them to add it to their annual health check.”

Anyone interested in having their hearing tested can call 131 797 to arrange a screening in their local area.

24 hour helicopter campaign takes off

Lachlan Shire Council will give full support to the Mayor of Orange to achieve a 24-hour emergency helicopter service.By Dominic Geiger

The Mayor of the Lachlan Shire, Des Manwaring, has recently thrown his support behind the project to establish an Orange based 24 hour emergency helicopter retrieval service for central and western NSW.

Although an emergency retrieval helicopter currently exists in Orange, the service is only funded to operate during daylight hours.

This means if a person requires emergency transportation after 6pm the service is unable to respond.

Des said it was important to establish the service as a 24 hour operation because the hour of the day doesn’t determine people’s health.

“[Lachlan Shire Council] will be giving its full support to the Mayor of Orange and that council to achieve this project,” he said.

“I think it’s a matter of common sense and a matter of money that’s affecting this project.

“When you’re talking about how much money you put towards an emergency service I think [in this situation] it’s completely worth it.”

If established, the helicopter would service the majority of the central west including the Lachlan Shire.

Following the Mayor announcing his commitment to the project at last Wednesday’s council meeting, council moved a motion to create a petition in support of the project which will be made available for Lachlan Shire residents to sign.

Des will also join a delegation to the NSW Minister for Health, Jillian Skinner, which will seek an immediate commitment to extend the retrieval service to 24 hours.

The campaign to establish the emergency helicopter follows the last month’s NSW Ambulance Service’s decision not to consider the 24 hour service until 2012.

NSW Minister for Health, Jillian Skinner, said the Auditor-General’s report in September 2010 stated that NSW Ambulance had reviewed the need to extend the operating hours of the Orange helicopter during 2009.

“That review identified there was not a sufficient demand at that time to warrant an increase to a 24 hour service,” she said.

“Prior to the election, I said I would again review the need for a move to a 24hr aero medical retrieval service in Orange.

“This has been done.

“The advice I have received shows there has been no change in aeromedical activity in the Central West, which is why there is no need to commit to a 24/7 operation at this stage.

“In line with the Auditor-General’s report, a state-wide review will be carried out before the regional helicopter contracts expire in December 2012.

“This will determine if there is a need to switch to an extended service in Orange.”

Condobolin pneumonia patient put out in the cold

By Dominic Geiger

When Heather Cannon’s husband Owen was checked into Condobolin Hospital suffering from a bout of bilateral pneumonia last Wednesday, she expected to be notified when he was ready to be discharged.

Imagine her surprise then, when Owen simply arrived on their doorstep without warning early Friday morning.

“It was about 9 o’clock, and it was a very cold morning with a cold wind blowing,” she said.

“I didn’t mind him being discharged, it’s just that staff are supposed to ring when someone is ready to be picked up.”

Though the Cannon’s only live a short walk from the hospital, Heather said she was incensed that someone who had just recovered from pneumonia could be left to walk home in the cold.

“Owen’s still no better, he’s still sick,” she said.

“I worked at the hospital for 25 years and I thought there was protocol staff were supposed to follow.”

A spokesperson for Western NSW Local Health District [LHD] said it was not hospital protocol to contact Next Of Kin [NOK] or family members unless instructed otherwise by an adult patient.

“Discharge planning is completed for all patients requiring care at any facility within Western LHD,” the spokesperson said.

“Patient requests are also respected if they do not wish for their NOK to be contacted.

“We endeavour to include the family or carers in the care planning where indicated.”

The spokesperson said the Health Service took all complaints seriously and the claims are being investigated.

“The Health Service has discussed with the person their concerns,” the spokesperson said.

New doctor begins work in Condobolin

Doctor Nishantha 'Nishan' Abeydeera has begun practising at the Melrose Medical Centre in Condobolin.By Dominic Geiger

The Condobolin community’s access to quality health care has been augmented this week thanks to the addition of a second doctor to the Melrose Medical Centre.

Doctor Nishantha ‘Nishan’ Abeydeera joins the Condobolin community after spending two years practising in the emergency department of the Swan District Hospital in Perth.

Originally from Sri Lanka, Doctor Nishan said he spent five years working in a naval hospital before making the decision to immigrate to Australia with his young family.

“My wife, who is an architect, and I brought our children to Australia after we were approved for permanent residency,” he said.

“After arriving in Perth I did my exams and got full registry.

“I wanted to be a GP, and I thought there would be more opportunities for my children in NSW, so I applied for this position in Condobolin.

“We first visited Condobolin two months ago and, although we thought it was very remote, we also thought it was in a beautiful area and the people we met were very friendly.

“Because our kids are still in primary school we made the decision to come to a town where there is a good school.

“I also got a good deal from the NSW government to come here; I think we will be able to enjoy ourselves and it will be a good experience for the kids.”

Doctor Nishan said he wanted patients to feel as though they can spend as much time with him talking about any medical concerns they might have.

“This is my first time as a GP in Australia so I’d like to spend as much time as possible with patients,” he said.

Doctor Nishan will also be travelling to Tottenham regularly to provide medical services to the community.

New health council at Condobolin Hospital

By Dominic Geiger

The inaugural meeting of the newly formed Condobolin Hospital health council was held last Wednesday July 13.

The council, which is made up of thirteen Condobolin community representatives, was established to provide members of the public with a voice to express concerns in regards to local health matters.

Condobolin Hospital health service manager, Kevin Ryan, said members of the public were encouraged to voice their concerns regarding health matters to council members.

“This is about the council be advocates for the community on a wide range of issues,” he said.

“These issues could be anything that affects the health needs of the local community.”

Kevin, who is also on the health council, said it had been some time since a health council had existed at the hospital.

“We haven’t had a council for a number of years,” he said.

“At the meeting we elected Michael Timmins as chairperson, Matt White as vice chairperson and Terryll Cassidy as publicity officer.”

Other members of the health council include Alese Keen, Margaret Riley, Lesley Bell, Francis Gavel, Peter Harris, Shaun Mitchell, Jill Slennett, David Salter and Christine Keen.

Health council meetings will take place on a monthly basis with the next meeting scheduled for August 17.

Hearing bus coming to town

Australian Hearing’s bus is bringing hearing services to the Central West area, offering hearing checks from 18 to 22 July 2011.

According to Sunila Kumar, Australian Hearing Area Manager Orange/Dubbo this bus brings hearing health to the doorstep of local communities.

“The Australian Hearing bus is an excellent way to reach people in communities who don’t have access to mainstream hearing services,” Mrs Kumar said.

“Hearing loss is becoming more prevalent as the population ages and now people can get their hearing checked by simply visiting the bus when it visits their local area.

“If you are over 65, we recommend that you get your hearing checked every two years. The mobile hearing service regularly visits remote and regional communities, so getting a hearing check is convenient and easy,” Ms Kumar said.

The hearing bus will be in Condobolin on Wed 20/07/2011 Condobolin Family Support Office, William Street from 2.00pm to 5.00pm Tottenham on Thurs 21/07/2011 at the corner of main street opposite Tottenham Hotel, Umang St, from 9:00am to 11:00am

No appointment is necessary. Australian Hearing will provide hearing screenings to any interested people who attend on the day.

For more information about Australian Hearing, contact your nearest centre on 131 797 or visit

Michael Timmins writes a bush script

Michael Timmins will tell the story of his pharmacy to Australian Pharmacist magazine. DGThe nationally circulating magazine, Australian Pharmacist, has selected Condobolin’s own Michael Timmins to help tell the story of how pharmacy has changed in regional Australia over the past 50 years.

The article, which will be released in a month’s time, will chronicle the changes Michael has experienced in his profession since arriving in Condobolin in 1969.

Coincidentally, the release of the article comes at a time when Shortis and Timmins Pharmacy is welcoming a new fully qualified pharmacist to their ranks with Ashleigh Marsden-Smedley receiving her official pharmacy practising documents last Thursday.

Condobolin blood donations not in vein

Betty Ticehurst,  Dorothy Keefe and Kellie De Grande with nurses Jacky Chapman, Therese Goodacre and Sue Rollin. DGBy Dominic Geiger

Approximately 50 Condobolin residents rolled up their sleeves to donate blood last Wednesday when the Australian Red Cross Blood Service’s Central West Donor Mobile visited the town.

Blood Van nurse, Gale Turnbull, said it had been a slow start to the morning, but by ten o’clock a good number of donors had shown up.

“We’ve had 40 people who have actually booked today however we estimate there were another ten or so who just showed up,” she said.

“It’s always a better idea to book ahead though.”

Gale said she thought the turnout was fantastic, however many of the donors hadn’t been drinking enough water prior to their visit.

“We are encouraging people to drink four to five glasses of water before they come in when we visit next time,” she said.

“We will be back in Condobolin here at the RSL Club in three months time on October 13.”

Gale said she wanted to send a heartfelt thanks to everyone in the town who donated.

“There are now a lot of very appreciative people out there,” she said.

“Each donor can give enough blood to potentially save three people.

“So from today that’s around 150 products for people who really need it.”

Appointments for the Blood Van’s next visit in October can be made by calling 13 14 95.


GWAHS warns of STI outbreak

NSW Greater Western Area Health Service (GWAHS) is currently conducting a campaign in order to warn young people between the ages of 15 to 29 about a recent explosion in detection rates of Chlamydia in the Central West.

Statistics show that since 2000 there has been a 300% increase in the sexually transmitted infection.

Clinical Nurse Specialist at GWAHS, Helen Woods, said there were a number of myths surrounding the illness which was adding to the increasing detection rates.

“Common misconceptions include people thinking they can tell if someone else has an infection, and by only having sex with one other person they’re safe,” she said.

“While Chlamydia is a common and easily treated condition, a person will often not know if she or he has it as 50% of males and 80% of females will not show signs or symptoms,” she said.

“This is why Chlamydia is known as the silent infection.”

Helen said Chlamydia could cause pelvic inflammatory disease and cervicitis in women.

“Pregnant women will bear the burden of this disease,” she said.

“It increases the risk of premature rupture of the membranes and low birth weight.

“It may also be implicated in cases of infertility.”

In addition to recent ‘pee in a pot’ visits around the Lachlan Shire where young people were encouraged to provide urine samples for Chlamydia testing, GWAS is also encouraging anyone who thinks they may be at risk to contact 1800 816 925 for information on where to receive a free, confidential sexual health test.


New doctor for Condobolin

Condobolin is set to welcome yet another doctor to the community thanks to the ongoing partnership between Lachlan Shire Council and Ochre Health.

Doctor Nishantha Abeydeera will begin work at the Melrose Medical Centre alongside Doctor Obi Ekeocha from July 18.

Originally from Sri Lanka, Doctor Nishantha began practising in the Perth suburb of Middle Swan two years ago and has recently made the decision to move to Condobolin.

Doctor Hamish Meldrum, Director for Medical Services at Ochre Health, said Doctor Nishantha would also be replacing the locum doctor in Tottenham.

“Doctor Nishantha will be travelling to Tottenham every now and then to service that community during the week,” he said.

“Doctor Obi has also been working with a locum doctor at the Melrose Street Medical Centre.

“We at Ochre Health are very keen to establish a permanent doctor for Tottenham and a second doctor for the Melrose Centre.”

Call for helipad at Condo Hospital

Lachlan Shire Councillors have recently renewed their investigations into the potential for a helipad to be constructed at Condobolin District Hospital.

Formerly located on the patch of land next to McDonnell and Cunningham Streets, the helipad was relocated to the Condobolin airport when construction on the Wiradjuri Study Centre began several years ago.

Health Services Manager at the Condobolin Hospital, Kevin Ryan, said a helipad located on hospital grounds would provide tremendous benefits for patients.

“Patients wouldn’t have to be double handled in the event they needed to be airlifted to another hospital,” he said.

“They wouldn’t need to be taken out to the airport in an ambulance before being [put in a helicopter].

“In situations involving spinal injuries, for example, being able to deliver patients straight from the hospital to a waiting helicopter would be an incredible advantage.”

Mayor of the Lachlan Shire, Des Manwaring, said although the aim was to be able to get patients directly from the hospital to a waiting helicopter, further studies still needed to be done regarding the possible location of the helipad.

“Aviation people will have to agree on a site that is safe, though the ideal is to get something as close as possible to the hospital,” he said.

“There may be a site on the northern side of the hospital that is suitable, but we will have to wait.”

The call for a helipad coincides with the NSW Health Minister, Jillian Skinner, opting not to reconsider the need for a 24-hour Orange based rescue helicopter until late 2012.

A campaign involving numerous local shires including Centroc, has since begun, with councillors, health professionals and community groups condemning the decision.

Mending it with the MEND Program

Ready to mend fitness levels - Generalist Counsellor Rebecca Watt, Dietician Lisa Elias and Aboriginal Health Worker Lesley Bell. DG By Dominic Geiger

Condobolin children who are above the healthy weight range are being encouraged to join the Go4Fun healthy diet program at the Condobolin Community Health Centre.

A NSW Health initiative, Go4Fun is a series of free fitness and dietary classes for children aged seven to thirteen years old.

Running from July 18 until September 21, the classes will be held every Monday and Wednesday from 4:30pm to 6:30pm.

Dietician at Condobolin Community Health Centre, Lisa Elias, said the aim of the program was to teach children healthy lifestyle behaviour before they developed chronic disease later in life.

“If you can tackle [weight problems] while kids are young you can help prevent lifelong illness,” she said.

“The children don’t need to bring anything.

“Parents are also required to attend every session.

“Classes will be split up with the first hour dedicated to activities and games while the second hour is devoted to teaching kids about healthy eating and how to change lifestyle habits for the better.”

Families interested in participating should contact Lisa Elias at Condobolin Community health on (02) 6890 1500.

Parkes electorate amongst worst for illegal tobacco

Compiled by Dominic Geiger

The Federal seat of Parkes has recently been ranked twelfth in terms of illegal tobacco sold in Australia following a British American Tobacco Australia (BATA) commissioned Deloitte report.

The report showed that over 26,000 kilograms of illegal tobacco was sold in the Parkes electorate last year which in turn cost taxpayers over $10 million in lost tobacco excise.

Mark Coulton, who currently holds the seat of Parkes, said although he doesn’t dispute the findings, they do surprise him.

“[Prior to seeing this report], I had no knowledge this was occurring,” he said.

“26,000 kilograms is a lot of cigarettes.

“No members of the community or police have ever mentioned anything about any illegal tobacco in Parkes.”

A spokesperson for BATA said in addition to the Deloitte report, BATA worked closely with state and federal police to verify the figures.

Parkes was one of the few rural electorates ranked in the top twenty for illegal tobacco in the country, with the majority of high ranking electorates being in metropolitan areas.

British American Tobacco Australia (BATA) CEO, David Crow is concerned that illegal tobacco sales will only get worse in the Parkes electorate under the unprecedented plain packaging legislation.

“The illegal tobacco black market has grown 150% over the last three years and plain packaging will only fan the flames and allow criminals to profit further,” Mr Crow said.

“The Government needs to do more to stop organised crime gangs dealing in black market tobacco across our suburbs.”

BATA has developed a website which outlines the size and scope of illegal tobacco in each Australian electorate.

The website,, ranks all electorates in the country, shows the excise lost and the amount of illegal tobacco sold in each area as well as further information on the issue.


Stall raises awareness

Irina, Ben and Reane Matihas, Allyson King, Talitha Gardner, Heather Blackley, Trevor Gilbert and Wendy Devine.

A drug and alcohol information stall was set up in Condobolin’s main street last Friday as part of Community Drug Action Week.

The community initiative, which is supported by NSW Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia, featured various information booklets regarding illicit drug and alcohol use.

Western Plains Regional Development Project Coordinator, Heather Blackley, said there had been a good reaction to the stall from the community.

“The aim of this project is to raise awareness about the harmful effects drugs can have in people’s lives,” she said.

“Unfortunately, I think Condobolin has a bigger problem with drugs than other similarly sized communities.

“People are influenced by others while they are young and as they grow up they become bored and continue to use illicit drugs and alcohol.”

Heather said the principal focus of the  Condobolin anti drugs program was to stop  secondary or ‘middleman’ supply to users.

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