Wimmera municipalities investigate sharing maternal, child health services

WIMMERA municipalities are investigating a proposal for shared relieving maternal and child health services.

The region’s maternal and child health nurses are employed on a municipal basis.

Horsham Rural City Council chief executive Peter Brown said there might be an opportunity for nurses based in one area to help out in another in times of need.

“It is difficult for councils to get relieving maternal and child health nurses,” he said.

“If the region’s councils can work together to jointly provide a service, that will work a lot better than if we individually try to provide them.”

Horsham Rural City Council and Yarriambiack Shire Council are among municipalities investigating the proposal.

Mr Brown said it was part of a broader push to increase Wimmera councils’ collaboration on services.

“We are starting to look at building proposals, planning permits, environmental health services and maternal and child health,” he said.

Horsham-based maternal and child-health nurse Virginia Butcher said she and her colleagues had long seen a need to improve nurse relieving arrangements.

She said the centre where she worked was short-staffed in May while a nurse was on unplanned leave.

“We had some relievers, but no-one was available five days a week,” Ms Butcher said.

She said the staffing strain meant some families did not receive the level of care the nurses aimed to provide.

“I guess this scenario has brought to a head how lucky we have been to have had previous relievers, and how we need to look after our new graduates and find positions for them,” she said.

The Wimmera is home to about 15 maternal and child health nurses.

Ms Butcher said some worked part-time.

She said there were also several Wimmera people studying to become maternal and child health nurses.

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