Maclean rehabilitation centre being used as a ward
PETER Lawrence knows the value of having family, friends and loved ones by your side as you recover in a bleak rehabilitation centre.
He watched on as patients beside him in the Ballina Hospital Rehabilitation Unit were visited by their own bearers of hope.
"It just does so much for the patients who are recovering," the South Grafton man said.
"To have family come and visit, children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren were able to give those sufferers the lift in spirit that they needed.
"There was one woman over at Ballina who could not even move or speak or anything. They had to get her daughter to come into the gym to do the exercises with her and by the time the daughter left the woman was doing them better than anyone. You just see that lift."
Mr Lawrence has only just returned to his South Grafton home after spending the past two months in the Ballina rehabilitation unit following the amputation of his right leg in April.
During his two-month rehabilitation Mr Lawrence's family were unable to visit as the trip to Ballina was too far.
Fortunately for Mr Lawrence he was able to form bonds with other patients but he said other Clarence Valley residents having to travel to Ballina or Coffs Harbour might not be so lucky.
"That is where people are getting disadvantaged in the Clarence Valley," Mr Lawrence said.
"It is not a disadvantage in that you are being looked after, but for people that are associated with you and want to see you of a weekend, it is a really hard trip. It is about 200km there and back."
Mr Lawrence has called for the state-of-the-art rehabilitation unit at Maclean Hospital, which was completed last year, to be opened as soon as possible.
"While Ballina and Coffs Harbour are functioning but not overloaded that will always stay stagnant down there in Maclean," he said.
"There needs to be organising going on down there, not just the funding but someone to get the funding and utilise it in the correct way.
"They need to get down there and open it and utilise it while it is there. By the time we get someone in there to use it it'll be back in the stone ages."
North Coast Health Service chief executive officer Chris Crawford said it wasn't a funding issue that was keeping the Maclean Rehabilitation Unit from operating as planned.
"The doors to the unit are not shut," Mr Crawford said.
"We are utilising the unit as a general ward for the time being.
"The reasoning for this has nothing to do with a lack of funding allocated for the ward but instead it is a result of a staff recruitment issue.
"North Coast Health Services have not been able to find or recruit the allied health staff to operate the Maclean rehabilitation facility."