By VINNIE RODI
INDEPENDENT candidate for the Seat of Mildura, Steve Timmis, yesterday unveiled a bold ‘three-point’ plan to secure Mildura’s health needs beyond 2050.
The plan forms part of Mr Timmis’ election ‘pledges’, and includes reclaiming the Mildura Base Hospital from private management, creating a ‘Mildura Health Hub’ on 25 hectares of freehold land (identified as the corner of Benetook Avenue and Seventeenth Street), and transforming the Mildura hospital into “a focal point and Centre of Excellence for the entire north-west” of Victoria.
“These are grand plans, but vision and self-determination are what country folk are made of. We all know that every journey starts with the first step,” Mr Timmis said.
“Firm, decisive action is what is needed at this crucial point in time, and we need to learn from our own hospital history and other working models.
“The first plan of action is to create a corporate, community-managed structure that is capable of managing the Mildura hospital.
“After this election, the government of the day will start to enter negotiations for the continued management of the Mildura Base Hospital, and we need to offer an alternative to the current privately-run set-up.”
Mr Timmis’ three-point plan includes:
• Creating a community entity that is compliant and capable of running the Mildura Base Hospital.
• Returning the Mildura Base Hospital to public, Mildura-community management.
• Planning for a Mildura Health Hub and the transition of health services to this hub over the next 50 years.
“To wrangle the management of the privately-managed hospital back into public hands we must first create an entity that is capable of managing the hospital,” Mr Timmis said.
“This entity is planned to be compliant by March 2019, and as such will be able to provide the State Government with a realistic, already established alternative to Ramsay Health Care when negotiations begin for contract renewal in 2020.
“This new entity will be peppered with local health experts, many whom have been disenfranchised by the current system, and it will also have a community-owned funding arm that will once again allow for contributions.
“Rest assured, this will be structured in such a way that the devastation of the past governments will never again be able to be inflicted on our community.”
In regards to the proposed Mildura Health Hub, Mr Timmis, ABOVE RIGHT, said his proposed location – 25 hectares of freehold land on the corner of Benetook Avenue and Seventeenth Street – was “an area where the hospital should have been built in the first place.”
“The area is on the junction of all major arterial roads, it has all of the major services including town water, gas and sewer, and it is close to the airport and Mildura,” he said.
“Most importantly is has room to plan and grow, has ample parking, and will allow us to meet our health needs for the next 50 years and beyond.
“We also have to consider that this health hub will service NSW as well, while being in the perfect place to accommodate patient air transfers to and from Melbourne, Adelaide, etc.
“This site also allows for staff and visiting specialist accommodation to be built – with this point, and training, a big issue. We need to control our training, even own our health training.”
Mr Timmis said just how the proposed land would be acquired would be a job for the newly created ‘community entity.’ He added that the current Mildura Base Hospital site, over time, would be re-purposed once the transition to the new Mildura Health Hub began.
“The fact remains that at its current location, it has outgrown its use as a hospital,” he said. “There have been calls for a hospice facility to be established in the region – maybe this site becomes home to that. Maybe it becomes home to aged care or rehabilitation services – the opportunities are endless.”
Mr Timmis said he had already begun talks with the current Andrews Labor Government regarding his three-point plan, while saying the Liberal-Nationals had also “made their (health) intentions clear.”
“It looks likely that the Andrews Labor Government will be re-elected – that’s what the polls are saying,” he said. “Labor have said that they want to talk to Mildura community, and transition the hospital back into the public health system.
“We need to make sure that we’re sitting down with them (Labor) and ensure they know there’s another option on the table.
“The Nats, meanwhile, want to spend $20million on a new ward at the current site. This is just another bandaid solution and isn’t going to fly. In my opinion, an elected Liberal-Nationals Government would be better off putting that money towards funding the first stage of this plan.”
Mr Timmis said the Mildura Base Hospital’s history also held a lesson for the future.
“Historically the Base Hospital was set up in the mid-1930s, and was in fact a great institution for the better part of 60 years, with nurse training and accommodation, medical specialists in-house, local GPs all having access, mental health care, accident and emergency, and a raft of ancillary services we could all be proud of,” he said.
“A large reason for its success was the community management. The men’s and ladies’ auxiliary supplied an endless response to needs and funding, the Easter appeal – which reminded us to contribute to our own well-being – raised $400,00 in 1992 alone.
“There was the continuing contribution of beds, wheelchairs and specialist medical equipment by those grateful for the loving care they received.
“Then the State Government sold it – all of it. They dismantled the support mechanisms and management systems that put patient care above all else, and replaced it with the terrible private management experiment that we have now.”