THOSE left hurting by the shutdown of Albury hospital’s hydrotherapy pool want it reopened “as quickly as possible” now the NSW government is providing $80,000 for repairs.
News the NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard was stumping up urgent funding to have the pool available again was greeted rapturously after fears it would be closed for good.
Joint and Muscle support group president John McFarlane, who represents 130 to 150 people who used the pool for help with pain and rehabilitation, said his members were very relieved.
Ailing men and women had resorted to using walking sticks and frames, only a month after the shutdown because they could no longer move freely without pool sessions.
“It was astounding...there were people who had to go back on their medication too,” Mr McFarlane said.
Albury Wodonga Health had stopped patients using the pool because of health dangers linked to the area not meeting hygiene standards.
The money provided by the NSW government will allow the health service to buy an ultraviolet sanitising machine to ensure the temperature-controlled pool is suitable for use again.
Albury Wodonga Health chief executive Leigh McJames was yesterday unavailable to answer questions about the detail of the work required.
However, in a statement Albury Wodonga Health acknowledged the funding and stated work had begun on specifics.
“The expected timeframe for remediation is approximately three months to develop specifications, undertake a tender process, award the contract and undertake the necessary works,” it stated.
Mr McFarlane said in an ideal world he would like the pool to be available again within a month.
“We’re just hoping Mr McJames gets onto it as quickly as possible to get a pool running for everyone again,” he said.
Secretary of the Joint and Muscle group, Julie Ridley also wants the pool open before November.
“I am thrilled (it’s re-opening), I just hope it’s sooner rather than later that the matter gets done and all the community user groups have the same access they did prior to the closing,” Ms Ridley said.
The pool’s gloomy prognosis turned around last week after member for Albury Greg Aplin met Mr Hazzard while parliament was sitting in Sydney and told him of the community outrage, which had included a protest meeting.
“The concern was that not only was the pool not opening and there were community groups affected, but the construction of a new hydrotherapy pool could be three to five years away,” Mr Aplin said.
“I took that to the minister and he said in the absence of Victoria contributing NSW would provide the funding to fix it.
“It is very pleasing because people were being affected without the facility being available and while there were alternates suggested by Albury Wodonga Health the only satisfactory outcome, for the people affected, was to have the direct care of Albury Wodonga Health.
“The community could not wait and I think the minister saw it in the same way.”
The $80,000 figure was provided to Mr Aplin by Mr McJames, who previously told The Border Mail the cost of fixing the pool was estimated to be $50,000 to $100,000.
Mr Aplin said he had liaised with his Wodonga Liberal counterpart in the Victorian parliament Bill Tilley about the possibility of half the $80,000 being contributed by the Garden State’s government which oversees Albury Wodonga Health’s management.
Mr Tilley welcomed the action from the NSW government, noting his efforts to have Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy address the matter.
“This is a great win for strong advocacy and decisive action,” he said.
“Now that we have a better understanding of the cost to fix the pool the NSW Health Minister has simply said fix it.
“In contrast I raised this with the Victorian Health Minister in Parliament last week but to date I’ve heard nothing.
“I’d hope Albury Wodonga Health get a move on with fixing the pool — for many people this has already been closed for far too long.”
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