Strong response to hospital petition

RESPONSE: Former director of nursing, Anne Graham, left, and Sonia Wright handed the petition to Nationals Leader, Peter Walsh.

RESPONSE: Former director of nursing, Anne Graham, left, and Sonia Wright handed the petition to Nationals Leader, Peter Walsh.

THE district community's message to the Victorian Government is loud and clear.

Its emphatic response to a petition expressing its anger at the removal of maternity services at Cohuna District Hospital and that it be allowed to remain at stand-alone health service has been signed by almost 2000 people.

Signatories from people at Cohuna, Leitchville, Pyramid Hill, Barham, Koondrook and Kerang amount to almost the population of Cohuna - and more petitions are yet to be presented to the Nationals Leader, Peter Walsh.

Mr Walsh, who is also the local Member for Murray Plains, will present the petition to State Parliament next week, requiring a response from the Minister for Health, Jill Hennessey within 30 days.

The removal of maternity services was reversed following a public rally and the subsequent withdrawal of services by all four doctors in the town, however concern remains that it could change again.

The town's lone general practitioner/obstetrician, Dr Peter Barker was advised that he could continue on safety grounds, but he said "we've never let a woman down yet" and he led withdrawal of services, which ended four hours later when Echuca Regional Health, which manages Cohuna, agreed to provide a locum service as well as advertise for another GP obstetrician.

Birthing services have been terminated at Kerang District Health due to its inability to attract a replacement GP obstetrician.

"This delivers a clear message to the Andrews Government to ensure the continuation of local health services," Mr Walsh said.

"I will be presenting the petition next week and further signatures can be presented later."

One of the organisers of Cohuna's response to the crisis, Sonia Wright said that she was "overwhelmed" by the response.

"I'm not surprised. We are very proud of our hospital and our doctors and this shouldn't happen," she said.

District health services are expected to meet to consider options for dealing with the shortage of doctors in this area.

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