The dry cracked earth of drought ravaged New South Wales is stuck in Sonia Fingleton’s mind.
Sonia is the manager of Chisholm Cottage, affordable accommodation at Westmead for country people receiving medical assistance in greater Sydney. She visited Armidale and Tamworth in early August to connect locals with the assistance they can receive.
“That’s when it became really clear just how devastating the drought is,” Sonia told Catholic Outlook.
“When you think dry, you think brown grass but there was no grass, it was just soil.”
Sonia recalls seeing a small group of school children playing with goats in a grassless paddock. Their bright school shirts provided the only colour in the bleak landscape.
Chisholm Cottage is part of Open Support (formerly Sisters of Charity Outreach) and other people in the team visiting from Open Support were Sr Jan O’Grady RSC, manager of Country Care Link, and Elizabeth Hoskins, Aboriginal Trainee.
They visited Aboriginal organisations, community health groups, community transport, hospital social workers, the Country Women’s Association, Armidale Rotary Club, Tamworth Peel Street Club and the staff of local parliamentarians.
“Country Care Link is a God-send for people travelling to Sydney,” Sonia said.
Their volunteer drivers can transport people seeking medical treatment from the Sydney airports, rail and bus stations to appointments or accommodation.
Sonia is determined that more people know there is help out there for people travelling long distances to receive medical treatment. The little known IPTAAS scheme for isolated patients reimburses the full cost of accommodation for a couple staying in the $60 rooms at Chisholm Cottage.
“So many more people can benefit from this. In fact, hundreds more could benefit from this,” she said.
Chisholm Cottage helps many people in an incredibly vulnerable state.
“I know that there have been people who drive to Sydney and sleep in their car because Sydney accommodation is too expensive for extended stays,” she said.
Chisholm Cottage provides attractive rooms for families, couples and singles close to the busy Westmead Hospital Precinct. It includes a guest kitchen, lounge, courtesy car transfers to local specialists and hospitals, free parking and WIFI.
Chisholm Cottage is for anyone outside of Sydney visiting for medical appointments and hospital stays.
People do not need to be visiting Westmead Hospitals to stay there and the 450 metre walk to Westmead Station makes it a convenient base for visiting hospitals around Sydney.
Phone: (02) 9633 4228