Former Chair of Reclaim the Base and Secretary of Mildura Hospital Conversation, Jo Rodda

FOR former Chair of Reclaim the Base and Secretary of Mildura Hospital Conversation, Jo Rodda, Tuesday will be a historic day for Mildura when the hospital returns to public administration.

More than 20 years after the region’s base hospital was privatised and a community grassroots campaign for its return to public hands, the final victory is now in sight.

“It was an unwinnable fight, but a fight worth fighting and it may have taken twenty years, but the wrongs are finally to be righted,” Ms Rodda said.

“Congratulations must go to the many people of Sunraysia who attended public meetings and rallies, those who signed petitions, travelled to the steps of parliament and those who shared their stories.

“On Tuesday our hospital will finally be returned to our community and to public management, in line with every other public hospital in the state. A great day that will be.”
Ms Rodda reflected back on the Premier’s announcement last year.

“It was just over a year ago in August 2019, that the Andrew’s Labour Government announced that Ramsay Health’s tenure as the, for profit managers of our public hospital, would conclude in September 2020. It was a monumental and very emotional day and testament to the power of the people,” she said.

“The impending change gave me cause to reflect on the journey that was and the many people involved in the fight over many years, most whose names you will never have heard, but they were there in the trenches fighting for our community.

“I have paused to consider my own part in that journey, about how I become involved and how I came to chair, what Gavin Jennings the former Victorian Health Minister, described as the most powerful lobby group, he had ever seen.” Ms Rodda said that as a mother of five children, most childhood illnesses were encountered, plus some.

“It was through my personal experiences that I learnt first-hand what was lacking at our privately managed public hospital and it was an article in the local paper quoting an original member of the hospital board that was the catalyst that drove me to join the fight for the return to public of our hospital,” she said.

“In that article the member was quoted as saying ‘It ain’t broke and it don’t need too much fixing at the minute.’ I knew that simply was not true. That was my call to action, I was infuriated. How dare someone in such a position of influence negate people’s health care experiences. It was if no one else’s opinion mattered. I knew it did and I knew that something had to be done.

“I joined the fight as a member of the lobby group, Reclaim the Base and soon after became their chair. We were relentless in our pursuit of a better deal for our region. We had to get our hospital back, there was simply no alternative.”

Ms Rodda recalled how there was a lot of late night research and readings including the many volumes of Larry O’Connor’s, Healthy Outcomes.

“So many meetings, with ordinary people, with politicians from all sides, but alas, the Liberal-National Party signed an extension of the contract just prior to them losing the 2014 election,” she said.

“The contract was extended for another five years with an option of a further two years. The fight was over for now.

“The Mildura Hospital Conversation picked up the baton and continued the fight to reclaim the base. A more politically diverse group of locals you will never find. And yet together they came for a common cause. To fight for the return to public of our hospital.

“There was the former nurse, Noel Pound, the good doctor, Arnold Jago (RIP), the farmers and irrigators, Jim Belbin, Greg Milner and Vince Dimasi and the son, Michael Pound and of course me. It was my honour to stand shoulder to shoulder with these great men in pursuit of better health outcomes for our community. I am so very pleased that Arnold Jago was able to be there on the day to witness the Premiers announcement. Our hospital was to be returned.

“Arnold taught me a great deal during our time working together and I came to respect the man whose opinion in the past I had rarely agreed with.

“Thank you does not seem anywhere near enough to convey the depth of gratitude I have for those who fought for our community nor is it enough to describe my sincere appreciation to our local State Member for taking the fight into the halls of power.”