Illawarra residents were being put at risk by the decision to close Bulli Hospital's emergency department and replace it with a GP-style service, angry residents said yesterday.
The Save Bulli ED Group put the region's health board on notice that the community would hold them responsible for any adverse health outcomes due to "this nonsensical decision".
Responding to the "nasty and dangerous" decision to reduce opening hours at Bulli and turn the ED into an emergency primary care centre, the group declared their fight was just beginning.
"They are giving us GP-like services where people can go with GP-type ailments - how dare they?" co-convener Caroline Colton said yesterday.
"There is no way this is maintaining current services. The current service is an emergency department 24 hours a day, seven days a week," she said.
"If it's a GP-type service then why are they telling people it's for emergency and calling it an emergency primary care centre? That is outrageous and really dangerous."
The Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District's 10-year plan includes developing Bulli Hospital into a centre of excellence for aged-care.
The existing level of emergency service will be maintained "at its current role" from 7am and 10pm.
District board chairman Denis King said Bulli now had a clearly defined role.
"When people arrive at Bulli they will know the hospital specialises in lower acuity emergency presentations while more serious cases requiring a higher level of care will be treated at Wollongong," Professor King said.
The plan made sense when 89 per cent of presentations were for GP-type ailments, he said.
But the group's co-convener Alison Fettell said the board was relying on "manipulated data" to strip life-saving services.
"How can you say on the one hand that the service will now only treat GP-like cases and will now only be open for 15 hours not 24, and at the same time say that services are at current levels?" Ms Fettell said.
"If this was not so dangerous it would be comical."
Keira MP Ryan Park said yesterday he would fight for "round-the-clock" emergency service.
"The community has done an outstanding job getting behind the campaign for Bulli and at least retained some level of service," Mr Park said.
"I was concerned we would lose the lot. But I will be actively lobbying to make this a round-the-clock service."
Mr Park also asked the board to define "lower acuity".
"No one expects major traumas to go to Bulli that's fine - no one has ever asked for the same service as Wollongong Hospital." he said.
"But you can't tell me every emergency department across the state offers the same level of service and at Bulli, we deserve a 24-hour service."
Caroline Colton and Alison Fettell, in front, with other residents concerned at the proposal to close Bulli hospital's emergency department. Picture: DAVE TEASE