Patients turned away as fires continue to rage

COONABARABRAN District Hospital was not allowed to admit patients yesterday out of concern that it might have to battle smoke and spot fires.

Weather conditions have worsened in the town near a bushfire that's devoured 45,000 hectares of the Warrumbungle National Park.

It was burning in the Bugaldie area, eight kilometres west of Coonabarabran, early yesterday afternoon when the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) revised to 49 the number of properties lost to flames.

At the same time wind was picking up and the temperature rising in Coonabarabran, a community likely to endure scorching heat today and tomorrow.

Keeping watch of the weather yesterday was the Western NSW Local Health District's emergency manager Joy Adams, who after talks with police in Dubbo called a temporary halt to admissions at the district hospital in Coonabarabran's Edwards Street.

The decision impacted on Coonabarabran and district residents in out-of-town facilities such as Dubbo Base Hospital who were considered ready for transfer.

"They may go to Gilgandra and Dunedoo to get closer to home," Ms Adams said late yesterday morning.

"But patients cannot go to Coonabarabran in case we have to look at the health service fighting spot fires and smoke."

Ms Adams will be involved in a review today of the decision to cease admissions.

Coonabarabran District Hospital's emergency department remained open yesterday and 15 of the facility's 21 beds were occupied.

Ms Adams said Baradine Multi-Purpose Health Service (MPS) was also able to take emergency cases after it ground to a halt last weekend when its power was cut.

"Inpatients at Baradine were transferred to other health facilities in the district," she said.

Ms Adams said the power had been restored to both Baradine and its MPS but it had been deemed prudent not to re-admit patients immediately.

The RFS yesterday reported of 150 firefighters on the ground west of Coonabarabran.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard travelled to the town yesterday, offering more financial support for its embattled community.

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