Deal buys vital time for Colac urgent care night service

URGENT care at Colac hospital will remain open overnight after an 11th-hour deal was struck between hospital management and Medicare Local to pump funds into the unit for the next three months. 

Colac Area Health (CAH) and the board of Barwon Medicare Local (BML) yesterday signed off on the life-support deal giving the Colac hospital $75,000 to prop up the threatened urgent unit while other options are considered. 

The last-minute rescue came as the unit prepared to close its doors tonight, ending overnight care to save the health service $255,000 inflicted in budget cuts by the federal government. 

The threats prompted an overwhelming community response with more than 800 people voicing support for urgent care at a mass forum on Tuesday night. 

The overnight service’s closure would have left emergencies in the hands of a single ambulance to take patients to Geelong. 

BML chief executive Jason Trethowan told The Standard the one-off grant would give CAH a chance to consult medical professionals and the community before announcing a new way to find savings. 

“There were high levels of anxiety with the closure tonight and it’s great that it’s been averted,” Mr Trethowan said. 

“Our agreement is $75,000 for three months to keep it going. We’re not going to fix the problem but we will offer some breathing space.” 

A meeting has now been set for Monday night between both boards, the Colac Otway Shire and health professionals. 

The issue became fodder for politicians in the ultra-marginal seat of Corangamite this week, with both state and federal members pointing the finger of blame at each other over the funding cuts. 

The BML CEO said there had been no pressure on the board by either political side to strike a deal. 

“There was no political interference whatsoever,” Mr Trethowan said. 

Colac Area Health chief executive Geoff Iles said the urgent care unit would operate as business as usual for the next three months. 

“It’s sensational news and it’s going to give us the opportunity to take a hard look at our health service model,” Mr Iles said. 

He said the hospital would now have three months to find savings instead of the 29 days allowed after the cuts were revealed. 

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