Deniliquin Pastoral Times

A greater health stake

- By Laura Green

A new health advocacy body has been formed in local government, in the hopes of making greater noise with decision makers in Canberra and Sydney.

The Edward River Council resolved at its March meeting to start its own health advocacy body, after the suggestion was put forward by Councillor Shirlee Burge.

Cr Burge said the committee would work with the handful of existing health groups, such as the Deniliquin Local Health Advisory Committee under Murrumbidg­ee Local Health District, and Deniliquin Health Action Group - a community group comprising local staff and stakeholde­rs — to take a unified, localised approach to advocacy.

“With the punch of council behind it, I believe (the committee) can make much further headway, and I think that was reiterated when Minister (Keith) Pitt said you need to be uniform in what you want and you present that forward,” Cr Burge said.

Mr Pitt, who is the Federal Water Minister, visited the region with Member for Farrer Sussan Ley to make a funding announceme­nt for Murray Irrigation Ltd, and separately met with Edward River councillor­s.

Cr Burge proposed a

committee independen­t of Murrumbidg­ee Local Health District, which is run by the NSW Government through NSW Health.

“If we are dealing with, and no disrespect to Murrumbidg­ee (Local Health District), they have their view of what we need and that’s being dictated to us from Wagga, not from our own local region.”

MLHD is administer­ing a clinical services plan for Deniliquin Health Service — an outline of the district’s health needs — which includes surveying current and future resources requiremen­ts, and consulting with the community.

With Cr Burge’s idea is still in its early stages, general manager Phil Stone said council staff had “done a little groundwork around what (a health advocacy committee) might look like”.

Unlike some council committees, its members will likely be councillor­s only, rather than a mix of councillor­s and civilian stakeholde­rs.

At its April meeting on Tuesday, council will vote on the parameters, responsibi­lities and members of the committee.

“We do know it’s an intent to facilitate dialogue between all other health committees, such as the DHAG, LHAC and DMHAG (Deniliquin Mental Health Action Group),” Mr Stone said.

“Every council is conscious not to duplicate the work of other advocacy committees, but it’s an opportunit­y to bring everyone together into the one space and compare notes.”

The next steps to establish the committee include building a terms of reference and formalisin­g committee members.

Cr Burge has previously advocated on health issues for Deniliquin and district, and made it one of her primary platforms when standing for last year’s local government elections. She is also a member of the Deniliquin Health Action Group.

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