DEBATE around the proposed Wimmera Health Care Group and Ballarat Health Services partnership has again entered state politics, with the Victorian National party leadership getting involved in the issue.
This comes as the Victorian National party launches their Hands off our Hospitals campaign - asking Victorians to protest possible health service mergers like the one being explored in the Wimmera.
Lowan Member Emma Kealy said local people needed to pressure the Victorian government to stop potential mergers.
"Labor is taking the 'local' out of local hospitals to create mega-hospitals controlled by the bureaucracy and dominated by the larger regional cities," Ms Kealy said.
"Far from delivering better services, hospital mergers mean longer waiting lists and increased travel to get the treatment you need and deserve."
Prior to the state-wide campaign Ms Kealy had distributed her own petition against the partnership talks around the Wimmera.
In the petition Ms Kealy addressed the Minister of Health Martin Foley directly, calling for the minister to come to the Wimmera and hear from locals opposed to the proposal.
A spokesperson for the Victorian government called Ms Kealy's comments "political point-scoring."
"We're aware that Wimmera Health Care Group and Ballarat Health Services are exploring partnership options to enhance the delivery of services and create better health outcomes for local people across the region. This includes consideration of voluntary amalgamation," the spokesperson said.
"This health service-driven process must include extensive engagement with staff and the community and thorough investigation of the potential benefits. We will only entertain a merger if there is no reduction in services. No decision has been made at this point.
"Our priority in any decision is the community and we will not be dictated by those engaging in political point-scoring."
In the Wimmera, health services such as the Wimmera Health Care Group, Stawell Regional Health and Edenhope and District Memorial Hosptial have started discussions about a possible partnership with Ballarat Health Service.
Nationals leader Peter Walsh said he believed similar talks were happening all across Victoria, notably between Bendigo Health and Mildura's health service.
"The Hands off our Hospitals campaign is a state-wide program because if you look at the government's rural and regional hospital strategy 2020, it is about how they are going to centralise the control of the smaller hospitals to the major regional centres," he said.
The Hands off our Hospitals website proposes "Daniel Andrews and Labor are pursuing a secret policy for mergers of hospitals across regional Victoria."
A spokesperson for the Wimmera Health Care Group declined to comment on the issue.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: