Old health service to return

THE old Northern Rivers Area Health Service will return in all but name under reforms announced by the State Government yesterday.

Premier Kristina Keneallyannounced the State’s eight area health services would be expanded to 18 ‘local health networks’ from January 11.

The networks will be run by a chief executive and a governing council made up of local clinicians, health and health care management experts and community representatives.

The new Northern Local Health Network will cover largely the same footprint as the former Northern Rivers Area Health Service, reaching from Tweed Heads in the north, past Grafton in the south and taking in Urbenville and Bonalbo in the west.

Ms Keneally said the changes were ‘a key plank of the historic national health reforms’ agreed to between the states and the Federal Government in April.

“This structure will deliver better patient care, strengthen local decision-making and continue NSW’s work to build a world-class health system,” she said.

As far as visible changes at the region’s hospitals went, Federal Page MP Janelle Saffin said they would ‘take a while to kick in’.

“The success in these reforms is not just in the emergency department, but on things like discharge planning and health care in the community,” she said.

“That’s ultimately the waypatients and the community will judge those things.”

Lismore Base Hospital Medical Staff Council spokesman Dr Chris Ingall welcomed the new boundaries, describing them as anacceptable compromise.

Lismore MP Thomas George said the new boundaries were a ‘step in the right direction’.

“It’s taken them nearly six or seven years to realise that what they had originally was what people wanted,” he said.

A spokesman for Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt said the councils were part of a process aimed at devolving responsibility for health services to local areas.

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