Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall called for the return of a blood bank for Inverell when he addressed Parliament on Wednesday. His statement:
Tonight I bring to the attention of the House the lack of blood collection service centres across the Northern Tablelands, specifically in the communities of Inverell, Glen Innes and Moree. Sadly, the Australian Red Cross Blood Service withdrew collection services from those communities in 2015, to the huge disappointment of the many hundreds of regular donors throughout the Northern Tablelands. While whole blood and plasma collection services remain open in Armidale and further afield to the south in Tamworth, many of those hundreds of committed blood donors were reluctantly forced to cease donating blood due to their inability to afford either the time or the cost of travelling the up to 400-kilometre return trip from their homes to the Armidale Red Cross blood collection centre.
Red Cross volunteers in the Inverell community are frustrated and have maintained their rage over the removal of blood collection services from their town. Beth McNeil is a passionate local who ran Inverell's once very busy blood bank out of Inverell hospital for approximately 18 years. She tells me that it never wanted for donors, with approximately 40 regular donors visiting twice per month to donate blood. Similarly, the community of Glen Innes felt so strongly about the withdrawal of collection services that locals rallied and pushed hard at the time for travel subsidies from the then Minister for Health so that people could afford to travel to Armidale and back—a round trip of more than 200 kilometres—to continue making their regular donations, so passionate were they about the contribution they were making. I vividly recall discussions with the then president of the Glen Innes Red Cross branch, Val Lennon, who was personally distressed by the decision and determined to have it reversed.
The growing towns of Glen Innes, Inverell and Moree and the surrounding districts are home to more than 40,000 people. The withdrawal of blood collection services from those communities came at a terrible time when blood donations were most needed. As we all know, in country areas—as in other parts of the country— history repeats itself. Just a few weeks ago the Red Cross put out a public call for an additional 3,000 donors across the country to make blood donations as their O negative reserves had slipped to just one day's supply.
I can report that donors in smaller regional communities in my electorate were more than happy to do their share and donate their blood. In fact, they still would be if the Red Cross did not remove the collection centres from Moree, Inverell and Glen Innes. It is such a shame that the services were taken away. That precipitated a dramatic shortage and has forced the Red Cross to call for extra donors. The donors are there; unfortunately, the collection facilities are not.
The need for blood donors is critical. That is why this week I have again written to the Australian Red Cross imploring it to reverse its 2015 decision and restore those blood collection services, even if they are only mobile services every month or two. That will allow passionate people in those communities to give their blood and help address the critical shortage that the Red Cross is so keen to ask the community to do something about. My message is the Red Cross has a shortage and I have the people, but we need the collection services. The Red Cross has the ability to reinstate those services and help address the shortage.
With $30 million locked in to the State budget this year for the Inverell hospital redevelopment there is an opportunity to build a permanent blood donation centre in that facility if the Red Cross is willing to meet NSW Health and the Hunter New England Local Health District halfway. I have confirmed with the local health district that there is capacity within the redevelopment plans for a blood donation centre if the Red Cross is interested. I say to the Australian Red Cross that there is a tailor-made facility on offer in Inverell. It will enable locals to make their donations and negate the need for people in the neighbouring towns of Moree and Glen Innes to travel to Armidale or Tamworth to donate blood. I continue to support the communities of Moree, Inverell and Glen Innes to have these services restored, which will help to increase blood donations across the State.
Temporary Speaker Geoff Provest said that he understood the desire that Mr Marshall had to restore blood donation services in Moree, Glen Innes and Inverell. He wished him well, stating that this was a worthwhile cause. “I believe one in every three people will need a blood transfusion at some point. I congratulate the member for Northern Tablelands,” said Mr. Provest.