Cr Claudia Haenel: Wimmera independence crucial

Published on 18 February 2021


Victorians were recently plunged into our third Covid lockdown. The end solution is the vaccine. 

But alarmingly, the Wimmera has not been included as one of the nine hubs across Victoria to roll out the vaccine. How can it be, with Wimmera Health Care Group (WHCG) having the potential to service our region of 60,000 residents, that we are not being considered a vital vaccine hub?

And we can ask the same of the proposed merger of Wimmera Health Care Group with Ballarat Health Services. 

Our city’s major employer, Wimmera Health Care Group board, is willing to hand control of its services to Ballarat. Local government is not responsible for health, but we can certainly advocate for it on behalf of our community. 

I urge the WHCG board to consider this merger with Ballarat carefully because it would have serious social and economic impacts for our community. Try and do whatever is necessary to accommodate the other hospitals in our region for a model that supports the Wimmera Mallee Health Alliance.

It is imperative we retain our WHCG services locally, as health is our Horsham rural city’s major employer.  

I also urge our Victorian Minister for Health, Martin Foley, to please consider the financial resources we need to ensure we retain our health services which form the backbone of our community in services and jobs. And our Federal Minister Greg Hunt to support a Wimmera Mallee Health Alliance with the funding packages required to ensure our aging population is taken care of. 

Our Council group is working hard to make Horsham, in line with Ballarat as a major rural city, not less than. We have mines ramping up, families relocating to Horsham that will need jobs for partners, we cannot have mining operations without a hospital offering a full suite of professional medical services in case of mining emergencies. 

We invite these medical professionals to come make a life here with us, as Council is working hard to increase the livability of our regional city with industry, infrastructure and recreational spaces.  

A centralisation of services to Ballarat will only set us back, when we are about to move forward. We don’t even have a rail service for our rural community to get to Ballarat for medical appointments. Those with mobility issues who cannot access a bus service must rely on two overland train services a week at odd times of the day and night if they need to get to a medical appointment. A prime example of what happens when we lose vital services. 

Our first months in council have been very productive with various housing and accommodation planning permits approved.

We also are also embarking on an exciting collaborative journey with our community on our Community Engagement Policy and vision. 

There are major infrastructure initiatives that will make our community safer, and easier to access, when we consider options to detour heavy vehicles out of Horsham. And as soon as we see our way through covid we can welcome a full suite of events to draw more visitors.  It’s an exciting time as our regional rural city is about to grow. 

The last thing we need right now is to lose our hospital services to Ballarat.