News of a $6 million cancer and wellness centre in Echuca has been welcomed in the Deniliquin district, and rightly so.
However, we also need to be looking at what cancer services can be provided at Deniliquin Hospital.
As the Pastoral Times has recently highlighted, there have been significant changes to the status of Echuca and Deniliquin hospitals over the past three decades.
While the Echuca facility continues to expand, the services provided at Deniliquin Hospital diminish at an uncomfortably rapid rate.
Cancer care needs to be a high priority when health authorities next week start their consultation, leading towards a plan for local services.
At present we have excellent regional oncology facilities in Albury and Bendigo, with the expectation that Echuca will soon be a closer destination for many district patients.
But we must not forget that a chemotherapy service was started at Deniliquin Hospital, and if it is not effectively utilised we have no doubt this service, like many others there, will be abandoned.
We welcome the Murrumbidgee Local Health District’s initiative to consult with this community and identify health needs. However, this needs to be much more than preparation of a document that sits on a shelf.
Deniliquin Hospital has been allowed to decline to a point that is unacceptable for a region our size.
The planned strategy must recognise the shortcomings that have been developed and put in place clear guidelines to ensure they are rectified.
The improvement in facilities at neighbouring centres is important, but providing an adequate level of health care right here in Deniliquin must be a higher priority.
We welcome the visit to Deniliquin late this week by Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals Leader Michael McCormack, who was invited to our town by the Pastoral Times in March.
At the time Mr McCormack was told about local despair with The Nationals, who have failed this region in recent years, as has been evident at the ballot box.
Denying this failure, which appears to be the local approach, will not fix it.
Acknowledging the mistakes and developing strong policies to protect our region would be a more positive course of action.
We live in hope.