Sammy’s legacy lives on with the opening of Moree Hospital’s new, seven-chair renal dialysis unit

THE big man would be proud.

Sammy Sabine, one of Moree’s quietest movers and shakers, moved mountains and shook the living daylights out of politicians more than 20 years ago to get a renal dialysis unit built in Moree.

And, with the help of his hardworking Moree Renal Support Committee and a group of dedicated volunteers, that dream became a reality in 2002.

Sadly, Sammy passed away three years ago, but his legacy lives on with the opening on Friday of Moree District Hospital’s brand-new, seven-chair renal dialysis unit.

Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall officially opened the facility, alongside civic and community leaders.

Mr Marshall did the official honours after a morning of treatment for a number of locals who can now enjoy a purpose-built unit.

He was joined by health and medical executives and hospital staff, civic leaders and family and supporters of renal patients.

Mr Marshall said the day honoured patients as well as those who have worked hard to see the new eight-chair unit become a reality.

“The first patients have already been treated here at the new unit, but today’s official proceedings are a public testament of the will and willpower of locals to make it possible and a celebration of modern medical advancement for everyone,” Mr Marshall said.

“This unit heralds a new era for renal treatment in Moree. With a more spacious and comfortable area for both patients and hospital staff this new unit has been built with the future health care needs of the Moree district in mind.

Moree Hospital Renal Unit Manager Jodie Slacksmith, left, Moree Renal Unit Support Group volunteer Rachel Phyllis, Hunter New England Health Mehi Sector General Manager David Quirk, Anne Burey, Madonna McInnes, Lola Shearer, Ros Laws, Moree Plains Shire Councillor John Tramby, Margaret Young, Sharon Broadie, Shirley Thompson and Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall in the new $2 million renal unit.

“It is equipped with three extra chairs so we can meet present demands but also critically, what we know will be growing renal patient numbers.”

The first sod for the unit was turned in April after Mr Marshall had mounted a campaign for the project funding on the back of a demonstrated demand and need for a new modern facility that could treat more patients.

“The old unit was cramped, at capacity and in high demand that couldn’t be met and that forced many to travel long distances for treatment or even buy home dialysis equipment,” Mr Marshall said.

“And for many patients with end-stage chronic kidney disease home treatment just wasn’t an option either, and for others, the cost and access of going out of town for treatment was prohibitive and problematic.

“Until this unit, we had many locals who had been forced to endure a six-hour round trip to Tamworth three times a week for dialysis treatment, so this is a huge improvement for people in that situation.”

Moree visionary Sammy Sabine was instrumental in getting a renal dialysis unit at Moree Hospital opened in 2002. Now, 16 years later, his legacy lives on with the opening of a new purpose-built, seven-chair unit (Image: Copyright Bill Poulos).

Mr Marshall said the new unit also contained an isolation chair, essential for patients at risk of infection or who required private treatment, something not previously available in Moree.

“And no matter how hard they tried, including extra shifts to treat more people, hospital staff were strapped when it came to renal dialysis for many, so they can be well proud of their efforts in doing what they’ve done for their people, but also in helping support this drive to get where we’re at today,” Mr Marshall said.

“We also need to pay tribute to civic leaders, community supporters and especially the Moree Renal Support Committee, which helped fund the original unit, and has been instrumental in getting public and government support for this project.

Sammy Sabine was a big man, with an even bigger heart.

While greyhound racing was his chief love – he began watching them race as an eight-year-old back in the 1930s – he is also best remembered as the man who made the renal unit and helipad at Moree Hospital realities.

Sammy, an engine driver with State Rail for more than 40 years and a rusted-on ALP stalwart, was prompted to raise money – and awareness – for the renal unit when told there was a five-year waiting list for the much-needed facility.

Sam started making phone calls and after lengthy talks and meetings with all the right people, was told that if at least $80,000 could be raised in that five-year timeframe, Moree Hospital would be bumped up the list.

Moree Hospital renal unit manager Jodie Slack-Smith with Sam Sabine at the Hunter New England Health Service Excellence Awards, where the Moree renal unit fundraising committee was named Volunteers of the Year (image supplied).

The Moree Renal Support Committee, now fittingly presided over by Sammy’s son William, was formed and through tireless fundraising and continued community support, the facility was opened 16 years ago.

Moree Hospital’s Acute Health Service Manager Bronwyn Cosh said the committee was instrumental in securing a dialysis unit at Moree in 2002.

“Since that time they have continued to be a tremendous support to the dialysis unit and to the Moree Hospital as well,” Mrs Cosh said.

“Every Wednesday night since 2002 the committee has sold meat raffle tickets at the Moree Services Club to raise monies for the hospital and over the years there has been hundreds of thousands of dollars raised.

“And, with the building of the new unit, the committee have offered their help again by agreeing to fund seven new chairs for the dialysis unit,” Mrs Cosh said.

The chairs are valued at more than $50,000 and will used for the benefit of patients and visitors.

“The hospital is so grateful for this wonderful offer of support,” Mrs Cosh said.

Every year, without fail, the Renal Support Committee donates at least $50,000 to Moree Hospital. “When the renal unit does not require assistance this very generous support group fund other projects in the hospital,” Mrs Cosh said.

“Last year they purchased two new video colonoscopes for the theatres at a cost of $54,000. The year before that they assisted in the upgrade of the Acute Inpatient Unit and once again donated tens of thousands of dollars,” she said.

In 2014 the support team was recognised at the Hunter New England Excellence Awards as the “Volunteers of the Year”.

“Moree District Hospital would not have the up-to- date facilities and equipment that we do if it were not for the support of our generous community and the volunteers that make this happen,” Mrs Cosh said.

“We cannot thank them enough.”

The push is now on to convince the NSW Government that Moree District Hospital is in need of an $80 million knock-down and rebuild.

A petition, the brainchild of Mr Marshall, is currently generating thousands of signatures in support of the significant redevelopment.

“People power is a powerful and essential ingredient when it comes to political push for a project on this scale,” Mr Marshall said.

“I would love to see more than 5000 names on this petition, which will demonstrate just how important this redevelopment is to the local community and its future.

“When I mount a case on behalf of the community to the Health Minister and Treasurer to secure a new hospital, it makes an enormous difference to be able to show that everyone in Moree is right behind this project and the campaign for it.

“This approach was successful in Armidale and again in Inverell for their $60 million hospital redevelopments and I want to ensure we give ourselves the very best chance to make it three from three.”

Mr Marshall launched the petition in early October with Mayor Katrina Humphries.

“I thank every person who has supported this petition so far, but now we want one last big community effort to push the signatures past the 5000 mark and make our case loudly and completely united,” he said.

Petitions are available to be signed in most Moree businesses, Moree Plains Shire Council and Mr Marshall’s electorate office in Balo Street.

Copies of the petitions can be secured by contacting Mr Marshall’s office on 6752 5002.

All petitions must be returned to Mr Marshall’s office or Tourism Moree by November 30.