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    Wimmera Base Hospital.

Health merger direction concerns remain for Emma Kealy

By Dean Lawson

Member for Lowan Emma Kealy has rekindled her stand against a proposal to merge Wimmera and Ballarat health services and is now concerned about ‘fallout’ from the debate.

Ms Kealy said the merger idea, as well as representing a bad deal, had produced unhealthy polarising attitudes about and in health services in the region and caused unnecessary upheaval.

She said what she found ‘particularly’ disturbing was mixed messages coming from merger proponent Wimmera Health Care Group.

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“While the health group is declaring a merger would help attract more anaesthetists and surgeons into the region, it at the same time seems to be failing to make appropriate efforts to retain important, well-established and respected people in specialist roles,” she said.

“We can only hope the motivation behind this type of management direction is in no way motivated by individual opinions about the merger.

“There are so many aspects of the proposal that appear wrong. 

“For example, we still haven’t been privy to the business case, which should fully explain how the merged entity will recruit its staff and manage its services.

“I stick to a firm belief that a merger might be a good idea – within the Wimmera-Mallee. 

“Ballarat is fundamentally not a good fit in this scenario.”

The merger proposal involves Wimmera Health Care Group, Stawell Regional Health and Edenhope and District Memorial Hospital joining with Ballarat Health Services to create a new ‘Grampians’ health entity.

The proposal, which does not include West Wimmera Health Service or Rural Northwest Health, is to generate a service conduit between the agencies to improve and expand health services in much of western Victoria.

But Ms Kealy has been firmly opposed to the idea, agreeing with some others in the community who believe such a move would erode instead of generate services.

She said Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley needed only consider regional differences between the Wimmera-Mallee and Ballarat in trying to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic to understand why it was a bad proposal.

She said agency efforts in attempting to ‘direct traffic’ for the Wimmera-Mallee COVID-19 situation from offices in Ballarat had exposed such weaknesses.

“And in the end, despite all the community consultation, I don’t believe people’s voices have been heard,” she said.

“I remind everyone that public consultation is more than a just process and that seriously considering public opinion is at the crux of why it’s necessary.

“I for one, don’t believe for a minute there has been overwhelming support for an amalgamation that involves Ballarat. 

“People expect these health services to work in partnership anyway.

“I think people remain concerned but have grown tired of saying more because they believe it’s all a done deal.”

The four groups involved in the proposed merger have signed off on the plan but Mr Foley has the final say on whether it proceeds.

The entire October 20, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!