BORDER residents were urged yesterday to “stand up and fight” for their public health service.
A community campaign has been launched to try to drastically improve funding for Albury Wodonga Health.
A public rally, petition and even open days at the Albury and Wodonga hospitals are some of the major strategies already on the campaign drawing board.
Albury Wodonga Health’s community advisory committee will work through the finer details at a meeting tomorrow.
Committee vice-chairwoman Liz Hare said it was not enough to just rely on groups such as the Border Medical Association or Hume Medical Local to take up the battle.
“The whole community stands to lose too much,” she said.
“They’ve put all the hard work in to get a cross-border health service, all that hard work to attract GPs and specialists to the region.
“Why do we then want to lose it all? Once we’ve lost skilled health professionals we won’t get them back again.”
Committee member Robyn Raine said support on both sides of the Border — and in the wider catchment of North East Victoria and the southern Riverina, covering 320,000 people — was vital to the campaign’s success.
The “outer catchment” region includes Wangaratta, Shepparton and Wagga because people from these areas use Albury Wodonga Health for specialist referral services, such as urology.
“We’re not going to stand back and see all the hard work put into getting Albury Wodonga Health established just fall down around our heads,” she said.
Two weeks ago Border Medical Association chairwoman Tracey Merriman issued a similar plea for people to fight for their public health system.
“The fatal blow has been delayed for a short term, but it’s still pretty bad,” she said of a federal government decision to return $1.1 million in funding it had previously cut.
That was because of a separate $2.5 million funding cut — to take effect this week — that Dr Merriman expected would cause a blowout in waiting lists, from 3000 now to 12,000 by mid-next year.
Mrs Hare said the committee had been concerned about the issue for a long time.
“We just can’t leave it any longer,” she said.
“Albury Wodonga Health has a vision to ensure it is able to fulfil its role as a state-of-the-art regional health service.
“How can they do it if they’re chronically underfunded and if the infrastructure is in desperate need of replacement?”
Contact Mrs Hare on (02) 6021 8668, or via email at email@example.com or phone Mrs Raine on (02) 6024 6430 to help.