The Manning Great Lakes Community Health Action Group refuses to accept “No” for an answer. It has requested the public availability of the Hunter New England Local Health District’s Clinical Services Plan for the Manning Great Lakes Gloucester region in its entirety.
The Group was formed in 2016 by Alan Tickle following a public meeting that he chaired in Taree. The Committee has 231 years of clinical service and is now entering its sixth year. Since its inception, the Committee, with the support of its membership, has been proactive in lobbying for increased financial and physical resources for our local Manning Base Hospital and increased health service delivery for our region.
The installation of the MRI at Manning Base Hospital, funded by the Federal Government and, either actual or promised improvements to the value of $140 million from the NSW Government, is testimony to the Group’s vigorous representations to all levels of government. There is no doubt that, without ongoing pressure from the Health Action Group, this extra funding and the completion of the Clinical Services Plan, which expired in 2017, would not have been forthcoming.
The Manning Great Lakes Community Health Action Group has made a formal application for the release of the Clinical Services Plan, citing public transparency and accountability as justification for its release. This Plan outlines the direction of health service delivery in our region for the next 10 years.
Michael Di Rienzo, CEO of Hunter New England Health, invited the Committee and representatives of all levels of Hospital staff to a briefing on the Clinical Services Plan on June 16th 2021. However, despite being asked by the Committee to release the whole of the Clinical Services Plan, Mr Di Rienzo flatly refused. He stated that it was an internal document and that he did not want the community to be confused and misconstrue the contents. We consider that this is an insult to the 94 000 members of the Manning Great Lakes region who are all stakeholders in the health needs of our wonderful area.
“We find it unacceptable that the NSW Department of Health does not insist on uniformity amongst NSW Health Districts. There should be oversight of their policies, stressing objectivity of a Clinical Services Plan and how it links to funding for services or capital works that the State Government funds. Other Health Districts have their Clinical Services Plans freely available on their websites. If there is nothing to hide, why not be open and transparent?” President, Eddie Wood, asked.
We keep hearing about plans for a hospital at Forster. Release of the Clinical Services Plan would indicate to the Manning Great Lakes Community how plans for a new public hospital at Forster might be an essential element of health service delivery in this area over the next ten years.
For that reason, the Committee strongly urges the whole community of the Manning Great Lakes Gloucester region, and particularly Forster, to back our call for the Clinical Services Plan document to be released in its entirety.
The Health Action Group recognises the population growth, particularly in the Great Lakes area, seasonal tourist population spikes and the obvious constraints due to the land-locked current Manning Base Hospital site. These points all indicate a need for land use planning consideration to meet the future health needs of the Mid Coast Local Government Area.
Mr Wood stated, “Hunter New England Local Health District must engage now with Mid Coast Council as Council is in the midst of reviewing its Local Environment Plan. Appropriate identification and zoning provisioning needs to be made now for a regional hospital that services both Forster and the whole of the Manning Great Lakes Gloucester area into the future.”
The community, as a whole, needs to know where such a hospital might be located, the dimensions of the scope of works, the total funding to be allocated, the services to be delivered and, most importantly, how many beds it would hold. This area already needs a 250 bed hospital, based on the national bed allocation of 2.5 per 1,000 patient population.
Is there provision for a Cardiac Catheterisation Lab considering that the Heart of Inequality Study 2017 clearly states that the Federal seat of Lyne has the worst cardiovascular outcomes in the whole of regional Australia?
It is imperative that we know how a proposed new hospital would affect Manning Base Hospital and its staff and services? What is the plan for them? Staff recruitment and retention is already an enormous problem, one that must be painfully obvious to Health Administrators.
This Health Action Group has taken up the fight for improved physical and financial resources that are required to work and deliver a high level of patient care in a safe and efficient manner. At the same time, the Group’s advocacy aims to support all categories of clinical and non-clinical staff at Manning Base Hospital for their supreme efforts and dedication, very often working under very difficult and demanding circumstances.
We cannot have secrets about our future health needs for the Manning Great Lakes Gloucester Area. We are all taxpayers and stakeholders and have a right to transparency which is why it is vital that the whole community rallies behind us in our efforts to obtain the Clinical Services Plan in its entirety to improve health service delivery in our local area. Without it, we shall not know what the next ten years has in store for us and for future generations.
It was pleasing to see in Dr. David Gillespie’s Gazette that he says he is backing the Manning Great Lakes as a regional capital. If so this could flow on to vast improvements being made in health service delivery in our area.
Meanwhile, the current office-bearers and committee members have been elected unopposed for the next 12 months:
President: Eddie Wood
Vice-President: Peter Johanson
Treasurer: Helen Halpin
Secretary: Carmel Bartlett
Manning Great Lakes Community Health Action Group