Emergency Hours Temporary and Parking to Remain Free

2nd September 2020
Mayor Freshney on the recent decision to further temporarily reduce the operational hours at the Mersey Community Hospital.


The recent decision to further temporarily reduce the operational hours at the Mersey Community Hospital’s Emergency Department has certainly brought a renewed and understandable level of concern, not only regarding the impact of that decision but also in relation to issues with the health system more widely.

Mayor Freshney of Latrobe Council said “I think it’s fair to say that the current Covid 19 pandemic has laid bare a number of long standing issues and the unhealthy reliance on visiting specialists and locums to provide and supplement local health services is certainly at the pointy end of that list. Whilst the provision of health care services is always a priority it is obviously heightened when we are faced with the risks and associated uncertainty of a worldwide health crisis.

Some have been quick to criticise and roll out the well-worn rhetoric around the imminent closure of the Mersey while others suggest and expect that the Government of the day will dip into that utopian bottomless pit commonly referred to as the “state budget” and magically find all the answers.

Too many forget that it is only three years since the Mersey, its staff and patients were used as a political plaything every 18 months or so when the then 2 year funding agreement with the Federal Government was up for re-negotiation and hopefully renewal. The nine Cradle Coast Mayors at that time took it upon themselves to change the paradigm and forged an alliance with the State Health Minister, his government and our local Federal elected representatives which ultimately delivered a 10 year funding agreement and a return of the ownership and control of the Mersey to the people of Tasmania. At that time and possibly even still, that negotiated outcome delivered the single largest financial agreement between this State and the Commonwealth in our State’s history. Who would have thought?

Now our community has another opportunity and in Minister Courtney and her Departmental Secretary, Kathrine Morgan-Wicks, we have two leaders who are committed to the task and who have been exemplary in their preparedness to engage with our council regarding the above issues and all things Mersey.

In the past week the Minister has formally written to council and advised that ‘the revised Mersey ED arrangements will not be permanent. The Mersey’s future is 100% secure and the Government is committed to reopening a 24/7 ED as soon as we are able to do so safely.’

In relation to the suggestion that “Paid Parking” was about to be imposed for off-street parking at the Mersey, the Minister could not have been more emphatic when she wrote to confirm that ‘the current arrangements for car parking at the Mersey Community Hospital will not be altered in any way, shape or form. Parking will continue to be free for all visitors and staff at the Mersey Community Hospital and the Government is pleased to be delivering an additional 200 car parks in line with our commitment at the 2018 State Election’.

A key plank in any reform agenda will be leadership and communication and, more so in this case than most others, the support of a community that has for far too long been divided and marginalised by political and personal posturing. In a nutshell, the time for change is upon us and already it is positive to see individuals, organisations and representative bodies putting forward their suggestions for consideration.

There is a way forward and I’m hopeful that our community will play a constructive role in unlocking a long term, sustainable and safe method of delivering health services at the Mersey and across the state.”