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EDITORIAL: Hospital merger response momentum grows

What has become obvious in the build-up of anxiety surrounding future Wimmera health-service operations is that it can take considerable time for people to digest, assess and respond to important information.

Wimmera Health Care Group’s management board announced in early November last year that an exploration into a merger with Ballarat Health Services to improve clinical services was ‘on the table’.

At the same time, it also started inviting community submissions to gain an understanding about what people across the region thought about establishing a greater partnership between the organisations.

It would be fair to say that in the countdown to Christmas after a year dominated by COVID-19, a community focus was probably elsewhere.

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Three months have passed and it has only been in the past fortnight that a vocal groundswell against the merger idea has seriously surfaced – to a point that it is suddenly bubbling over the edge. 

For some in positions of acute understanding and authority, concern has been brewing from the start. But for others, it seems there has been a sudden revelation that the concept is ‘fair dinkum’ and what it all might ultimately mean if it happens.

Wimmera Health Care Group board at least would now be under no illusions about the depth of negative community sentiment surrounding the idea.

Regardless of the outcome of debate, now finally gaining momentum, the obvious question remains about how to fill shortfalls in medical services a region the size of the Wimmera and southern Mallee demands.

History tells us the health service has a shining national reputation but that, it seems, is not enough and there will be a need for some ingenuity to find a formula acceptable to all. 

Although the Wimmera-Ballarat proposal would be a ‘voluntary’ merger, many in the community can’t help but feel they have been left to find a ‘local’ solution to a problem that comes under state and federal responsibility. 

In reality, the underpinning issue can’t help but smell of government neglect or at least ambivalence to appropriate public hospital and health-service needs in the state’s west.


RELATED: Webster: What’s the deal on hospital mergers?

RELATED: Surgeon no to hospital merger

LETTER: Stand united

LETTER: Under our control 

LETTER: Loss of autonomy

The entire February 17, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!