Deniliquin Pastoral Times
Aim still the same two years in
The Deniliquin Health Action Group is about to celebrate its second anniversary.
These first two years have been a time of consolidation, identifying health needs in the community and advocating for services that adequately reflect these needs.
DHAG started as an initiative of the Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD – NSW Government) and Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network (MPHN – Federal Government) after concerns were expressed about issues associated with the region’s health services.
These were especially highlighted during both state and federal election campaigns in the first half of 2019.
MLHD and MPHN provided initial support and consultancy services to help develop a community led model, which includes leading from within the community, rather than decisions being all directed by government health departments.
The committee met for the first time in September 2019 and after various discussions decided to adopt the name Deniliquin Health Action Group.
It comprises 12 to 14 community members with an interest, experience and/or knowledge of the health system. Voting members join in their personal capacity and not on behalf of an organisation or community group.
The group has elected to have non-voting representation from MLHD (local management from Deniliquin Hospital) and Edward River Council to advise and provide information to the group when requested.
For the first six months the group defined its purpose: to research community wants and needs in order to improve the health overall of Deniliquin and district.
DHAG continues this commitment to trying to find and implement workable solutions for these health related needs on an ongoing basis.
An initial process of community consultation saw a survey distributed to the community and this was followed by engagement with a consultant that led to prioritising focus areas.
The community response was overwhelming and priority areas were developed as follows: More general practitioners. Access to services such as visiting specialists, mental health and allied health.
Upgrades to medical facilities and equipment.
Travel and community transport, as well as knowing what services are available.
Sadly, as COVID intervened, the group was unable to meet for four months in its first year, however meetings resumed in August 2020.
In summary, the first year of DHAG involved: Community consultation; Engagement with MLHD and MPHN and consultancy to lead the group to understand the community led process; and
Regular meetings and extensively discussing all the issues the community had put on the table, with a thorough assessment of where DHAG needed to focus its time and what needed to be addressed.
A very important part of this first part of the process was for group members to have an opportunity to share views, concerns and their own experiences and for the group collectively to identify where they thought they could affect change.
The second article in this series will focus on access to GPs and other services, as we work towards solutions that ensure adequate health services are provided in our community.
This is the first article in a series, highlighting the activities and progress of the Deniliquin Health Action Group since its formation two years ago. The series has been prepared by DHAG member Garry Baker (pictured).