Treatment room to improve health outcomes in Ulong

Coffs Harbour Mayor Paul Amos, Eastern Dorrigo Community Hall Management Committee chair Carol Cleary, TAFE NSW Head Teacher and Nurse Lisa Taffe, Northside Health GP Dr Jay Ruthnam, Healthy North Coast’s Kash Reddy and Eastern Dorrigo farmer Rodger Pryce.

THE vital treatment room addition to Ulong’s Mountain Health Hub was officially opened on Thursday 15 February.

The Health Hub is located in the Eastern Dorrigo Community Hall.

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Carol Cleary, the chair of the Hall’s management committee, hosted last week’s opening event.

“Seven years ago, I was told that I would never get health services to our mountain,” Carol said.

“Today proves that when the Government and those in power listen to its people’s needs, great things can happen.”

Gumbaynggirr Elder and Lowanna resident Estelle Wade gave the Welcome to Country at the celebrations.

City of Coffs Harbour Mayor Paul Amos, Healthy North Coast’s Kash Reddy, and Northside Health GP Dr Jay Ruthnam were in attendance as speakers.

Brooklana farmer and City of Coffs Harbour councillor Rodger Pryce read a statement of congratulations from Member for Coffs Harbour Gurmesh Singh, who was unavailable to attend.

A major driving force behind the project, Carol became acutely aware of the gaps in the area’s health service delivery as owner of the Ulong General Story and Café.

Carol and husband Steve regularly heard from locals in the mountain community about their struggles accessing vital health care locally.

Over time, after countless heartfelt conversations with the community, Carol honed an idea to create a health hub in Ulong.

The latest addition, opened last week, is a two-bed treatment room with a medical grade fridge.

Motivated by Carol’s vision, a community of politicians, tradies, health professionals, local government officials, service providers, First Responders and many more have played their part in finding, funding, fitting-out and staffing the hub and new treatment room.

Dr Ruthnam, who has driven up to Ulong once a month for fully-booked-out consultation days since 2021, spoke at the gathering.

He invited the Ulong school children in attendance to come to the front of the room, before asking the students to jump forward.

Referencing Neil Armstrong’s famous statement when he first stepped on the moon, Dr Ruthnam said the opening of the treatment room was a giant leap for the people of the mountain community.

Speaking at the ceremony, Mayor Paul Amos paid tribute to the commitment of Dr Ruthnam to delivering healthcare in the region.

“It is wonderful what Carol has achieved, and she always thanks all those around her, but this doesn’t happen without Dr Jay Ruthnam.

“You are a star sir – this is a great achievement.”

TAFE NSW Head Teacher and Nurse Lisa Taffe said the treatment room’s opening meant an “expansion in person-centred holistic care for all that attend”.

“What that means is that every person is treated with services that take care of their own individual needs from head to toe, back to front, inside and outside.”

Ms Taffe said the opening of the treatment room also offered benefits to local students.

“The win-win for TAFE NSW is the exposure and experience this health hub can offer our students whilst promoting health and wellbeing which includes actual hands-on skills like cardiac monitoring, collecting pathology, immunisation clinics and referring to other services.

“Our students from qualifications such as Diploma Enrolled Nursing, Health Services Assistance, Allied Health, Pathology and even Health and Fitness will have increased opportunities to increase skills in health care, working alongside a very experienced and knowledgeable doctor and of course meeting some course requirements such as working with people from diverse backgrounds, communicating in challenging situations and assessing the health status of those in the community to name a few.

“TAFE NSW at Coffs Harbour is proud of what this partnership has achieved and is looking forward to watching this community benefit from improved health care services,” she said.

While Healthy North Coast (HNC) has supported the growth of Ulong’s Health Hub, there’s hope that the dollars don’t dry up.

“HNC has provided funding and I’m hoping it is ongoing,” HNC’s Kash Reddy stated, promoting a cheer from the audience of locals.

Mr Reddy told NOTA that HNC recognises the significant strides Carol and the Ulong Health Hub supporters have made, overcoming significant healthcare accessibility issues.

“Accessibility is one of the biggest problems in health care we face around the world,” he said.

“For a community with one road in/one road out to have made significant strides to solving that problem is a huge achievement.

“It’s a unique way of bringing all the parties involved with setting up a health service to a rural area,” he said.

“Now significant work needs to go into sustainability and then growth.”


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