Health chief says south-west can be an industry leader

WESTERN Victoria has potential to be a national leader in linking health services through technology.

South West Healthcare’s annual general meeting heard there were moves to develop an integrated telehealth system for the region.

“I’d be keen to get a case to the government,” Barwon Health chief executive Dr David Ashbridge told the meeting.

“We could become a leading service model for the rest of the nation.”

He said there was potential to construct a health region in the Barwon south-west that would be the envy of anywhere in Australia.

Dr Ashbridge said the region was fortunate in having Deakin University involved in training medical staff able to work in rural settings with wide ranges of skills.

“We need people with skills across the board rather than narrow specialists,” he said.

“In the past we’ve relied on the trickle-down from the metro system.

“We need to take control and train our own. It is pleasing to see Deakin involved in the region, training specialists able to work in rural and remote areas.”

He said the Barwon south-west region had a population of about 450,000, which was an ideal number to become autonomous and focus on high-quality patient care by treating people as close to home as possible.

“We’ll be judged by the quality of service we provide,” he said. Last financial year South West Healthcare treated 22,530 acute patients, 27,277 emergency department attendances and handled 130,000 outpatient service visits. Warrnambool Base Hospital’s total number of inpatients treated rose 6.9 per cent to 20,518.

The health service recorded an operating deficit of $953,000 — $259,000 worse than the previous year. However, the annual report says the deficit was expected considering expenses in  commissioning the $115m Warrnambool Base Hospital redevelopment which was officially opened by Premier Ted Baillieu. A $26m community primary care centre was also completed in the financial year and is now in operation. 

The healthcare or

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