No MRI until mid-March

ALBANY’S first and only MRI machine is currently on lockdown after an internal water leak at Albany Health Campus.

All appointments have been cancelled and rescheduled, with patients either being sent to receive a CT scan in its place, or being asked to travel to Perth for a bulk- billed MRI.

Great Southern Radiology CEO Glen Marshall said he was alerted to the issue on Saturday.

“I just got the phone call on Saturday morning to say that there was water in our MRI room which is quite strange,” he said.

“Our technicians flew down on Sunday from Perth, they’ve been here up until lunch time today and they’ve checked out the machine.

“The [MRI] is fully operational, so that’s a fantastic outcome for the machine.”

Despite the good news for the expensive piece of tech, it’s structural damage to the room itself that has halted all use of the MRI.

“Because it’s such a technical piece of equipment it actually lives inside a copper room,” Mr Marshall said.

“So now what we need to do is to test the integrity of that copper room, because what’s happened is the water has flooded and effected the floorboards, they’ve stretched and that’s stretched the copper casing, and we now need to make sure it hasn’t separated anywhere.”

The copper casing is an essential aspect of the room as it prevents an excessive amount of electromagnetic radiation from distorting the MR signal.

It also stops the electromagnetic radiation generated by the MR scanner from causing interference in other nearby medical devices.

Great Southern Radiology conducts approximately 10 to 12 MRI scans per day, with around 100 appointments expected to be impacted.

A spokeswoman for WA Country Health Service confirmed the water leak, and advised that the equipment will be examined.

“In line with the WA Country Health Service’s (WACHS) unwavering commitment to patient safety, all technology housed within the area will now undergo a safety review,” she said.

“This includes the facility’s MRI machine.

“In the interim, WACHS is providing alternative imaging pathways for patients and working with Great Southern Radiology where appropriate noting there are currently no urgent cases waitlisted for an MRI.”

While all appointments are being diverted and rescheduled, the loss of the machine comes after years of campaigning, petitioning and bipartisan and community support to get the device to Albany in the first place.

Mr Marshall said the installation of the machine in 2014 was a step in the right direction for health in the Great Southern.

“It was a real win for Albany,” he said.

But as a $2m piece of machinery, it’s likely to be the only MRI in Albany for a while yet.

“It’s the unfortunate problem of living in a regional town.

“Occasionally equipment is affected and we need to make best use of what we’ve got.

“We’ve had no major issues before this at all.”

Appointments with Great Southern Radiology are estimated to be running again in mid-March.

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Stephens new Labor candidate

CITY of Albany Councillor Rebecca Stephens will join the fight for the Seat of Albany at the 2021 election as the candidate for WA Labor.

The Tuesday announcement was made just eight days after current Albany Labor MP Peter Watson revealed he would retire from his position at the next election.

Ms Stephens is the Regional Manager for the Great Southern-Esperance region for Worklink, has volunteered with various school and community boards and has been a member of the Albany Surf Life Saving Club for more than 20 years.

She paid tribute to outgoing Member Mr Watson.

“Albany is a better place because of what Watto has achieved,” Ms Stephens said.

“I look forward to representing my community and campaigning for the re-election of the McGowan Labor Government.”

Premier Mark McGowan described Ms Stephens as an “outstanding candidate” who was ready to “take the baton” from Mr Watson.

“I’m proud to have Rebecca on my team, so we can continue to deliver on our plan for Albany, to create new local jobs, build the infrastructure Albany needs and upgrade important health and education services,” he said.

Mr Watson said he was excited Ms Stephens had been chosen as the WA Labor candidate for Albany as she “shares the same values as I do to put Albany first”.

Albany City Motors Financial Director Scott Leary is expected to join Ms Stephens in the race for the Seat of Albany as the sole nominee for pre-selection for the WA Liberal Party.

Other political parties are yet to announce their candidates.

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Financial fight for CWA flats

IN A last-ditch effort to save Albany Seaside Flats from divestment after the budget accommodation site failed to secure funding for crucial renovations three times, its volunteer committee must raise $50,000 in the next three months for the site to be considered for funding once more.

The site, located on Flinders Parade in Middleton Beach, currently has four operational one, two and three-bedroom units.

The Country Women’s Association (CWA) of WA site was originally designed to offer affordable accommodation to regional and remote families, but now offers inexpensive accommodation to anyone.

Three older units on the site, built in 1938, were closed in 2013 after 75 years of use due to their poor condition.

Secretary Anne Radys, Finance Officer Anne Barton, Committee Member Peg Vickers and Caretaker Laura Ferrell said the Albany Seaside Flats committee had discussed taking financial and administrative control of the accommodation site for many years with the CWA of WA State Committee – so they could work on upgrading the old facilities – but it was to no avail.

Only recently, the group said, was the committee awarded the control it needed.

Now, CWA of WA has given the committee a May deadline to fundraise a minimum of $50,000 before the decision to fully fund the renovation can be put to a state vote for the fourth time.

“They are part of Albany’s social history,” Ms Vickers said of Albany Seaside Flats.

“We didn’t have much back then but staying here was something I still remember, and it was absolutely wonderful.

“Losing them now would be like giving up the crown jewels.”

The three 1938-built units in question are heritage-listed and cannot be demolished.

The other option is to fund extensive and expensive renovations.

This includes installing firewalls, asbestos removal, replacing the ceilings, updating the kitchens and replacing the floor coverings.

CWA of WA State President Elaine Johnson explained that the issue of financing these renovations had been put forward to the CWA State Conference several times, but had failed to secure support and funding each time.

“A motion was carried at State Conference in 2014 to approve renovations of units A, B and C for up to $120,000 but no funding source was identified,” she said.

“Branches were consulted by postal vote in 2016 in an attempt to seek funds to support the required renovations or return the property to the State, and the response to the vote was mixed; it did not lead to a decision to fund the renovations, and further investigation into projected costs was authorised by the Board and approved as a motion at the 2017 State Conference.

“The renovations were proposed to the membership at the State Conference as a Statewide fundraiser, but this motion was lost.”

Ms Johnson said various other proposals had been considered by the Board, but they were deemed unsuitable.

This was because the financial model was “not sufficiently proven to justify the re-allocation of assets, nor do the units provide a sufficient community benefit to risk undermining the Association’s asset base and independence”.

“It is noted that the property is a Crown Grant in Trust, which means the Association cannot realise any funds invested into infrastructure, as if it wishes to divest the property it will need to return it to the State, subject to the approval of the Minister for Lands.”

Ms Barton is starting a crowd funding account which the public can donate to if they wish to support the cause.

The Albany Seaside Flats committee will also host a fashion show in April to assist the effort.

While the Weekender was speaking with the group about this issue, Ms Ferrell turned away bookings from potential clients as she had no room for them to stay.

She said the accommodation site was frequently booked out during the year and that it lost money by not being able to offer more accommodation, as the three 1938-built units sat empty.

“How can we make money if we can’t fix and use these units?” Ms Ferrell questioned.

President Ms Johnson said a minimum of $280,000 was required to lift the three 1938-built units to a “holiday lettable standard”.

She said she understood the community sentiment and history associated with the property and hoped the Albany community could help to save the units.

“CWA of WA cannot do this alone as the costs are high and returns low when you are dealing with budget family accommodation,” Ms Johnson said.

“As the units continue to deteriorate there is some urgency.”

A crowd funding link will soon be launched on the Albany Seaside Flats Facebook page to give community members the opportunity to financially support the cause.

Alternatively, people can call Ms Barton on 0412 937 641 to make a donation or donate direct to the account here: BSB 633 000, Acc 172 407 363.

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Waifs aid Fire Fund

ALBANY success story The Waifs contributed to raising more than half a million dollars for fire services and wildlife protection at a concert in Fremantle late last month.

It was announced last week that the two Fire Aid Benefit Concerts featuring John Butler, The Waifs, San Cisco, Stella Donnelly and Carla Geneve raised more than $650,000 to support the east coast in the wake of the devastating bushfires.

Band Manager Phil Stevens said the concert concept originated from himself and the bands as a direct reaction to the horrendous images and stories that emerged from the fire crisis.

“It was a very emotional time for Dave and Josh from The Waifs because their homes in Moruya and Cobargo had to be evacuated,” he said.

“You can imagine the stress they were going through.

“However, they knew that playing these concerts was the most effective way for them to make a difference.”

The concerts were announced within 72 hours of the idea being proposed.

Fremantle Arts Centre Director Jim Cathcart said the sold-out shows were an uplifting experience.

“These acclaimed musicians all have a strong association with Fremantle, and it was great to see the WA public coming together out of a passionate concern for the people, animals and bushland affected by these devastating fires,” he said.

All proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to a number of causes including local New South Wales and Victorian fire services, the Wildlife Victoria Fund, and local communities such as Cobargo and Moruya where David and Josh from The Waifs live.

As well as giving their time to perform, the musicians also donated merchandise on the night along with Fire Fund t-shirts and tea towels.

Other money raised will go to the Freo Fire Fund, which will direct the money raised to a number of different organisations involved in the bushfire relief effort including Australian Red Cross, Foodbank and the Australian Wildlife Conservancy.

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Campaign promotes early detection

A TELEVISION commercial featuring GPs from regional WA is among a number of Cancer Council WA public health campaigns driving home the ‘Find Cancer Early’ message.

Cancer Council WA Great Southern Regional Education Officer Bruce Beamish said while new data showed the Find Cancer Early messages were starting to show some impact, there was still a long way to go in improving early detection of cancer.

“The campaign is prompting people to take action, and our recent evaluation data reveals that more than a third of regional viewers took action as a result of seeing or hearing the Find Cancer Early advertisements,” he said

“Encouragingly, we’ve seen a 61 per cent increase from 2018 in people taking action within 12 weeks of seeing the campaign, but we’d still like to see people taking earlier action rather than waiting up to 12 weeks.”

Prostate, breast, skin, bowel and lung comprise almost 60 per cent of all cancer diagnoses.

Albany-based GP Dr Keerthana Muthurangan said she is never too busy to discuss important issues.

“No question is silly, weird or odd, especially if it is about possible cancer symptoms,” she said.

“It’s normal to be scared when you want to know if you could have cancer.

“We are here to provide you non-judgmental counselling and management.”

Mr Beamish said the aim of the Rural Doctors Bathroom campaign and other Find Cancer Early campaign materials was to increase awareness of the symptoms of the five most common cancers and motivate people to seek medical advice early on in WA.

The advertising campaign began on Sunday and will run for 13 weeks across the state.

For more information on Find Cancer Early, visit findcancerearly.com.au

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Black dog ride to red centre

MORE than 100 Great Southern motorbike riders will join upward of 6000 others across the country to raise awareness for depression and suicide prevention next month.

The Black Dog Ride 1 Dayer will take place on Sunday, March 15 and see Great Southerners depart from Denmark’s Koorabup Park and ride through Mt Barker, Porongurup, along the Kalgan River, through to Marine Drive at Middleton Beach, along York Street, Albany Highway and back out along Lower Denmark Road.

1 Dayers will take place across the country on the same day along various routes.

Denmark Coordinator Rob Woods said the Black Dog Ride brought many people together to reduce the stigma around mental health.

He said a second larger ride would see motorbike groups from across Australia ride together in August.

“We start in Busselton and ride to Hyden, Norseman, along the Nullarbor to Ceduna, we all meet in Port Augusta then ride together to Coober Pedy and then to Alice Springs,” Mr Woods said.

“It’s about starting conversations about depression and suicide prevention and getting people talking about it.”

Bev Seeney, who has had her own experiences with depression and suicide, has participated in the ride with husband Roger for the past eight years.

She said the Black Dog Ride often brought back the same people every year, creating a second family of support for her.

“I feel very supported by Roger and everyone,” Ms Seeney said.

“It’s a lot of fun, there’s plenty of camaraderie in the group and they really are like an extended family.”

“I’ve seen the knock-on effects of suicide and depression,” Mr Seeney added.

“This is a way of helping, getting people talk- ing, and reminding peo- ple that it is an illness – not a stigma.”

Those interested in participating in the Denmark Black Dog Ride can sign up at blackdogride.org.au

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More toys for us

THOUSANDS of dollars worth of new toys are now ready and waiting for children and their families to ‘check out’ from the revamped Rainbow Coast Toy Library.

Now located at the former kindergarten rooms at St Joseph’s College, the toy library, which allows families to borrow six toys for three weeks at a time, is raring to go and welcomes new members.

It recently celebrated its 30th birthday and with that, secured the upgraded facility and additional grants to now have a toy library worth at least $20,000.

President Michelle Hassell said there was more than enough toys to share around.

“We really want to promote stopping unnecessary expenditure and reusing, instead of sending old toys to landfill,” she said.

“Studies have shown children get bored of toys after about one and a half weeks, so why not borrow different toys all the time?”

Ms Hassell said educational resources were also available at the toy library to assist children with school readiness.

The volunteer-based organisation is open 10am to noon every Saturday and has more than 50 families already utilising its products.

Ms Hassell hopes now that the new library is fully operational, more families will sign up for a membership.

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Caffeine cravings costs driver $500

CAFFEINE cravings have cost a man $500 after he pleaded guilty in Albany Magistrate Court last Thursday to driving without a licence while on his way to pick up an iced coffee.

In what will likely be his most expensive coffee run ever, Ethan Ross Newbey was also handed a six-month driving suspension for the January 1 trip to Jerramungup Roadhouse.

The court heard Mr Newbey told police he “only came down for a bottle of Dare.”

In sentencing, Magistrate Raelene Johnston questioned why the 28-year-old father of two would take such a risk for a simple caffeine hit.

“It was an expensive bottle of ice coffee you wanted to buy,” she said.

In a separate offence, Mr Newbey pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of an illicit drug.

Prosecuting Sergeant Peter Yuswak told the court Mr Newbey had tested positive for methamphetamine and cannabis after police stopped him shortly before 4pm on September 28.

He said this was Mr Newbey’s second conviction for this type of offence.

Magistrate Johnston handed down a $400 fine and a nine-month driving suspension.

“Do not drive without authority,” she warned.

“People can go to jail for their third conviction.”

Combined, Mr Newbey will have to fork out $900, plus costs, and have to wait at least 15 months before he can legally drive again.

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Para sailing pathway

A STATE sailing contest for people with a disability taking place in Albany this weekend could be an important stepping-stone for events like the Paralympics, according to its organiser.

Coordinator Mark Paynter said the Hansa WA Sailing Championships, being held at Princess Royal Sailing Club (PRSC) for the first time, could act as a “pathway” for sailors with a disability eager to compete internationally.

The Hansa 303 and slightly larger Hansa Liberty are the two types of vessels being used at the event and are specifically designed to suit those living with disability.

“Hansa are a class of boat that are sailed internationally, so if we can prepare our sailors for these, they’ve got an opportunity to not just sail down here but in competitions across Australia and the world,” Mr Paynter said.

“These craft are designed for confidence building and have a high level of stability, but still require skill to sail them.

“If sailing were to be re-introduced to the Paralympics, then probably the Hansa 303 would be the boats used.”

The sport has been officially discarded from the Paralympics in Tokyo this year.

Mr Paynter, who also heads PRSC’s decade-old Sailability program, noted sailing provided people with disability a chance to both engage with the sport and the broader community.

“This particular championship brings Sailability and other programs for people with disability into the mainstream, and that’s why it’s important,” Mr Paynter said.

“Through these, people develop the skills they need from qualified instructors.”

Sixteen participants from Perth and Albany are expected to compete this Saturday and Sunday, ranging in age from 12 to 84.

More information about the event and bi-weekly Sailability program can be found at prsc.com.au and on the Club’s Facebook page.

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Breaksea icon undergoes restoration

ALBANY’S iconic Breaksea Island lighthouse is currently undergoing a $1.9 million maintenance facelift.

The lighthouse, which inspired Albany author Dianne Wolfer’s book Lighthouse Girl, was identified by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) as a priority for refurbishment in 2018.

The Breaksea Island lighthouse, built in 1902, is one of more than 60 heritage listed lighthouses.

It is the same one that was once home to a young Fay Howe, famous for translating soldiers’ messages and passing them on to their families as they departed Albany for World War I.

It was built to replace an earlier pre-fabricated cast-iron lighthouse that was built in 1858.

“Getting our contractors and their materials onto these remote sites is a big part of the logistical challenge of maintaining our lighthouses and our broader aids to the navigation network,” an AMSA spokesperson said.

“It’s a technical and logistical challenge, but both AMSA and our expert contractors are well-equipped to take it on.”

The works include the removal of lead paint internally and externally, repairs to the lantern room and stair corrosion, and external stone work.

AMSA Project Engineer Daniel Atkins said the entire siteworks were expected to be completed within 21 weeks.

“Definitely one of the most challenging parts of this project is the logistics,” he said.

“The majority of our lighthouses are located in logistically challenging places, in harsh marine environments – we had to have 60 loads [of materials] delivered to the site by helicopter.”

Mr Atkins said lighthouses would always be relevant, hence worth maintaining.

“There’s been a lot of technological improvements over time for navigation in vessels, but that still doesn’t outstrip the need for traditional lighthouses,” he said.

“They are an important navigational tool as well as having cultural importance.

“I think everyone is drawn to lighthouses; they hold a special place for many people.”

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