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Coffs Harbour UHA Branch President Helen Mears (right) with NSW State President Linda Swales and North East Regional Representative Dee Hunter at the North East Regional UHA Forum in Sawtell.

Hospital volunteers show resilience and determination

Mar 26, 2021

Not even a once-in-a-half-century flood could prevent hospital volunteers on the Mid North Coast from holding their regional forum at Sawtell this week.

The State President of the United Hospital Auxiliaries of NSW, Linda Swales of the state’s central west, attended, along with the North East Regional Representative Dee Hunter, Coffs Harbour Mayor Denise Knight, Gumbaynggirr elder Reg Craig and host Coffs Harbour UHA President, Helen Mears.

Coffs Harbour Health Campus General Manager Lydia Dennett was a late apology as the flood emergency and recovery extended into Monday morning.

UHA volunteers from Coffs, BowraMacksville, Bellingen and Nambucca Heads attended, however, flood waters further south prevented volunteers and Health staff from the Hastings and Manning from joining their colleagues for what would have been the first official get-together of volunteers in a year due to COVID-19 precautions.

Mrs Swales described the past 12 months as a difficult year, starting with bush fires after the 86th UHA State Conference in Port Macquarie, then the suspension of hospital volunteer services in all NSW hospitals in response to COVID-19, and culminating last weekend with one of the worst floods ever faced by NSW residents.

Despite the hurdles, the hospital volunteers across NSW still managed to donate $4,354,000 in medical equipment for the 2019-20 Financial Year.

Regional Representative Dee Hunter was quick to praise the efforts of the Coffs Harbour branch in hosting the forum, in particular Helen Mears and Heather Hardwick.

Ms Hunter also praised the Mid North Coast’s volunteers who, despite limited fundraising activities, still managed to donate $271,246 in equipment to local hospitals.

“We gifted important medical equipment to our health facilities, such as an ultrasound for the renal unit at Macksville, an operating table for Bellinger River District Hospital, vital signs monitors and electric beds from Nambucca Branch, mattresses for Kempsey District Hospital, a bladder scanner for Dorrigo Multi Purpose Service and numerous items from our host Branch Coffs Harbour Pink Ladies, to name just a few,” Ms Hunter said.

“It was an incredible effort from the North East Region UHA Branch members.”

Coffs President Helen Mears said the weather had stopped many volunteers from attending but it had not dampened the enthusiasm of those who did make it to Sawtell.

“Our volunteers have missed each other’s company and that of our hospital staff but we are looking forward to getting everyone back to work in late April,” Mrs Mears said.

Mid North Coast Local Health District Chief Executive Stewart Dowrick had nothing but praise for the region’s volunteers.

“This is a cohort of some of the most generous people you would ever meet,” Mr Dowrick said.

“We have missed them over the past 12 months… not only their support but their smiling faces and their generosity of time and compassion.

“They are a remarkable group of people and it is a privilege to have them in our Health family on the Mid North Coast.”

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