SIX weeks after the closure of Fremantle Hospital’s emergency department and an exodus of staff, nearby businesses are doing it tough.
But all are hopeful the downsized hospital will continue to inject traffic and cash into the precinct.
“My whole lunch crowd went,” Lenny the Ox owner Chris Ford told the Herald, saying he’d let two staff go. “There were 42 interns, 30 of who would come in for lunch. I dropped $500.
“The doctors are the spenders … there are still a few nurses around but the paramedics have gone—they would line up and get coffees for everyone—and the physios etc have gone. It’s not just about me … it affects the whole economy of Freo. Even the tyre place has dropped a few customers a day.”
Mr Ford, whose chef brother owns Udon & Lincoln, says everyone’s doing it tough but despite his 12-14-hour days he loves it.
“It’s the first time in my life I look forward to coming to work,” the affable 44-year-old says. “January and February are always slow but this seems to be the slowest we’ve seen … usually the cooler months are better.”
His views are echoed by TLC owner Mike Allegretta who says things usually pick up in March.
“I’d say we’ve dropped 20 per cent—mainly lunches—but across the board. You can definitely feel the impact.
“I don’t think 100 per cent of the slowdown is due to the hospital … it’s the time of year … but 20 per cent is probably the impact of the closure.”
Mr Ford says the local economy seems to be going through what other countries went through three years ago, and laments the disappearance of so many “Freo characters” after the closure of the emergency department.
Fremantle Hospital acting executive director Ruth Letts told the Herald all new services—hand and finger unit, ophthamology service, the older adult mental health unit, and the 50-bed Day Admission Centre—would be operational by May/June, while the Moss Street Rehabilitation Clinic is due to move in at the end of June.
The reconfiguration is budgeted to cost more than $19 million and when complete the hospital will have a 300-bed capacity.
Most businesses in the immediate area are prepared to weather a lean period in the hope the refurbished hospital will again become a major source of trade, especially when the DAC opens.
by EDDIE ALBRECHT