Inclusive health advocacy committee to be formed on council

Councillors of Edward River Council.

A health committee aiming to bring a united voice to health advocacy in the Edward River region has been made official.

Edward River Council resolved at its April meeting last Tuesday to establish a health services advocacy committee and invite relevant members of community groups to join.

Previously understood by council management to be an exclusive council committee, the body will include a mix of members from various health groups representing the region, including a “minority of councillors”.

Councillor Shirlee Burge pitched the idea to form the HSAC, to bring about a united voice on the health advocacy front for Edward River.

The committee’s next step include issuing letters of invitation to executive members of existing local health based advocacy groups, appointing interested councillors, and modifying and adopting the committee’s terms of reference.

“We’ve been stuck and not getting anywhere with the health system in town,” Cr Marc Petersen said at last Tuesday’s meeting.

Many bodies have been working to improve Deniliquin and district’s health services in recent years, as low funding and staff shortages have caused the permanent or temporary closure of some facilities, including the hospital’s oncology unit which does not have the staff to run it.

Last year, Edward River Council won a bid to fund a clinical services plan with state funds, which is expected to start before July.

A CSP outlines the current health services and its future needs up to about 10 years.

The Deniliquin Health Service has never had a CSP, making it difficult for council to advocate for specific funding.

Council’s general manager Phil Stone said the new health services advocacy committee will be able to provide feedback or support for the CSP, and strategically consider new items to add to council’s advocacy strategy under the health section of that document.