Nationals Senate Leader and Senator for Victoria, Bridget McKenzie hosted a virtual roundtable with local health providers from Albury-Wodonga and Minister for Regional Health, Dr David Gillespie yesterday to discuss on the ground challenges and support provided by the Australian Government.
Representatives from Albury-Wodonga Health, Gateway Health, Headspace Albury-Wodonga, Albury-Wodonga Aboriginal Health Services and the Border Medical Association took part in the online event.
Minister Gillespie spoke about the Australian Government’s investment in mental health services for the region. This includes $1.27 million this year for headspace Albury-Wodonga and headspace Wangaratta.
Key topics of discussion involved the need for an increased medical workforce in the regions, health education and training, mental health services to combat the effects of drought, bushfires and COVID-19, greater consideration of the unique needs of border communities and the importance of country GP’s.
Senator McKenzie said the online event provided an opportunity for health providers to raise their concerns directly to Minister Gillespie.
“Our local health services have faced significant challenges in recent times due to natural disasters, border closures and overall increased demand.
“The crux of this issue is that we need more medical professionals in regional towns like Albury-Wodonga, especially junior doctors.
During the virtual roundtable, the importance of the Albury-Wodonga Regional Deal to provide a collaborative cross-border health service was also raised.
“I am committed to seeing this Regional Deal signed off by the federal and state governments as soon as possible.
“Healthcare is not about state versus state; it is about all levels of government coming together and working on behalf of the community to get things done.”
Senator McKenzie said she will work to secure support from state governments, after local health provider representatives requested on the ground meetings.
“As a result of today’s discussions, I will be writing to both the Victorian Minister for Health, Martin Foley and the New South Wales Minister for Health Brad Hazzard to invite them to inspect our facilities here.
“Minister Gillespie has indicated he will endeavor to visit our region as soon as he is able.”
Following the roundtable, Senator McKenzie also received an update on the pharmacy vaccine rollout from Wangaratta pharmacist and local representative of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Bruce Robertson.
As of October 5, the Commonwealth Government’s vaccination rollout has seen 83.6 per cent of Victorians receive their first dose, and 54.5 per cent receive their second dose.