Communities have to fight
By BELINDA SCOTT
WENDY McCARTHY said yesterday 'community support could be a very strong lever and lobby groups could be more powerful than an executive board'. Ms McCarthy, the chair of the Health Participation Council and Chancellor of the University of Canberra, was in Coffs Harbour with veteran rural leader Ian Sinclair to chair two meetings on health. Mrs McCarthy said new area health system structures would give clinicians and the community more power in the health system rather than less, but the key to success would be getting the right people and people who were capable of change. Yesterday's meetings were part of an eight-week program which involves Mr Sinclair and Ms McCarthy visiting communities across NSW to discuss the role, structure and functions of the proposed new Area Health Advisory Councils. These councils, which will include both clinicians and community representatives, will be part of the new health administration structure unveiled in July by the NSW Minister for Health, Morris Iemma. Yesterday morning Mr Sinclair and Ms McCarthy listened to an invited group of clinicians and health group representatives and Ms McCarthy remained in town to chair a public community consultation meeting at 1pm, while Mr Sinclair travelled to Grafton. Ms McCarthy said among points raised by the clinicians and consumer groups yesterday were that health was more than hospital services and, unless a broader view was taken, there would be no change to the health demographic, which was the whole point of the exercise. A member of the now-dissolved Mid North Coast Area Health Service Board, Paul Sekfy, said it was the absolute tragedy of the NSW public health system that no community members were involved in corporate governance of the health system, which had been the only way the community had got any answers and it was interesting that there had been little public comment on this. Further details of the consultation process are available on the NSW Health website at www.health.nsw.gov.au and everyone is invited to respond to the proposals for the advisory councils by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. nsw.gov.au or by writing to Area Health Advisory Councils, NSW health, Locked Bag 961, North Sydney NSW 2059.