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17 February 2021
Federal Member for Mallee Anne Webster has used a visit to Horsham to call on the State Government to declare why Victorian regional health groups feel they need to explore mergers to provide basic services.
Dr Webster said people needed to know whether there was any behind-the-scenes State Government direction involved in the moves.
“What is the State Government planning? What is the government’s strategic purpose in some of these moves?” she said.
“The government has to be honest with rural and regional communities and I suspect it has its own agenda.”
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Dr Webster stressed the State Government needed to take responsibility for health systems and processes.
“It must come forward and declare its official position or intended agenda,” she said.
“It needs to articulate what is happening to regional Victorians, who are not second-class citizens.”
Dr Webster made the comments amid growing community debate about a ‘merger’ – part of a Wimmera Health Care Group exploration into developing a greater partnership with Ballarat Health Services.
She said there was also speculation about the potential of other health-service mergers involving Bendigo and Mildura.
“I’m hearing a great deal of concern in the Wimmera and it seems to be that people are concerned that a consultative process has been a bit tokenistic,” she said.
Dr Webster urged Wimmera health group leaders to ‘slow down, go back to the drawing board and back to the community’ to gain a clearer picture of what a merger might mean.
“I’m curious as to whether there is some form of serious centralisation agenda behind all this – when we all know that is not what rural communities want,” she said.
Horsham Rural City Council, meanwhile, also added its concerns about the Wimmera-Ballarat merger proposal.
The council fears an amalgamation might ultimately erode clinical services in Horsham and the Wimmera generally.
Horsham mayor Robyn Gulline said the council wanted to explore whether Wimmera Health Care Group could strengthen service capabilities and create better health outcomes through other governance arrangements.
She said this included strengthening the role of Wimmera Southern Mallee Health Alliance.
“We need to get the critical mass in our region to make the services more efficient and to attract the required skills,” she said.
“The council is of the view that we should be jointly lobbying state and federal governments to support the Wimmera Health Care Group to deliver services required.”
Cr Gulline said mayors of six municipal councils in the region had sought a meeting with the Victorian Health Minister to discuss concerns.
“There needs to be a concerted advocacy effort for funding, which reflects the regional role Wimmera Health Care Group plays,” she said.
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The entire February 17, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!