The setbacks residents needing medical attention have suffered due to the closure of state borders has been the focus of talks between Member for Mallee, Dr Anne Webster and Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.
"He acknowledges out of all the COVID-19 issues he has had to deal with... this is the one he feels he has not succeeded in," Dr Webster said.
"I feel bad that we are letting our constituents down by not being able to get the South Australian Health minister and department to release specialists.
"It is hugely problematic, and I think the health ministers, particularly in the three states, need to think about how COVID-19 is going to be managed in the long-term. These knee-jerk border closures, which we have never supported at a federal level, have created arbitrary divisions between what are really porous borders.
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Dr Webster said she found the case of nine South Australian specialists that received exemptions to travel to Broken Hill without quarantining "extraordinary and incomprehensible".
"They should have been able ot come to Mildura for the last four months in the same agreement, because we've had no COVID here for the last four months," she said.
Dr Webster said she had written a letter to Victoria's Health Minister Jenny Mikakos and Australia's Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatesworth, asking the latter to speak to his state counterparts about changing the situation.
"There are many people in this electorate that are suffering unnecessarily due to these border closures," she said.
A spokeswoman for Premier Daniel Andrews has told the Mail-Times "The Department is working with these health services (in Nhill and Mildura) to facilitate staff to support ongoing hospital operations,". She did not elaborate on this statement.
Hopeful of an effective recovery
Dr Webster spoke to the Mail-Times in the wake of Treasurer Josh Frydenburg's budget update on Thursday, in which he forecast Australia's budget deficit to be the biggest since World War II.
Dr Webster said she didn't envisage any government services being cut in Mallee because of the deficit.
"We've invested in more programs, such as mental health or domestic violence, and you have to remember our health and social welfare is one of the highest income and emplyoment areas across Mallee," she said.
"We have also invested in infrastructure and road projects with councils. We have been pouring funds into the 12 (Mallee) councils. Because they have an ability to be shovel-ready and have locals do jobs, it is seen to be the best pathway to getting money out the door and kicking the economy along through COVID-19.
"We've got quite a few councils that are beginning works or in the process of getting projects signed off."
Dr Webster said she thought Mallee was as well-positioned as it could be leading into the pandemic.
"Mallee has had around 3700 businesses and orgnisations that have accessed JobKeeper, so I think that gives you a picutres of how we move out of this," she said. "Obviously some businesses are going to require more support but in terms of ogin forward, that is a lot of opl in Mallee that are at least connected to a business due to JobKeeper."
Dr Webster did not mention any specific infrastructure projects in the region she was pushing for in light of the pandemic. She said she was advocating for a "measured" recovery for the region.
"Things like boosting cashflow for employers measure, and that we do whatever we can to contnue the measures that have supported businesses," she said.
"If we have businesses survive, that means more people are going to be employed. It's important busineses have whether it's tax support or instant asset write off, whatever helps them get back on their feet. Across Mallee obviously that varies, I know there are some businesses that are doing very well even comparitive to 12 months ago.
"I understand that's not everybody, (but) we have agriculture businesses that are having a great year, which obviously has a flow-on effect to supply chains. I think that in an agricultural region we have a really positive future in being able to get back on our feet."
Detailed Labor Force data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics released on Thursday shows there were 68,600 people employed in northwest Victoria, which incorporates the Wimmera, Mallee and Grampians, in June 2020. This represented a drop from 71,000 in April.
The total number of employed persons in this region fell by 600 in June, with net totals of 1400 men in the area finding employment and 2000 women losing it.
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