THE State Government has sealed a deal to save Sea Lake's health service, hours before the north-west Victorian town's residents were due to jump on buses for a protest on Parliament's steps.
As reported in The Age two weeks ago, the community-run, not-for-profit hospital was on the brink of financial collapse, blaming a funding deadlock between state and federal governments.
The hospital's board told a town meeting on November 9 it only had money to keep the doors open for two months before it would have to cut 40 jobs and send its 28 aged care residents in search of new homes.
They said years of talks with both levels of government had failed to produce a solution. Locals feared the loss of the hospital would have ripped the heart out of Sea Lake, generating economic ripples that would wreck local businesses.
As Sea Lake citizens mobilised in protest, the board met state Health Minister Daniel Andrews last week, and he announced yesterday morning that he had brokered a $2.35 million funding package with the Commonwealth to secure the health service's future.
The State Government will provide a $500,000 capital grant and $200,000 in transition funding to help the service restructure.
It has locked in $650,000 in recurrent funding for health and community services, and the Commonwealth has agreed to provide more than $1 million for aged care each year.
Federal Minister for Ageing Justine Elliot said that the annual funding of more than $1 million would provide certainty for Sea Lake's residential aged care services.
The hospital will get administrative support from the nearby state-run Mallee Track Health and Community Service, and the two services may merge in the future.
It was a win for ''people power'', said Peter Walsh, member for Swan Hill and deputy leader of the Nationals in Victoria.
The Victorian branch of the Australian Nursing Federation welcomed the decision, and congratulated the Sea Lake community for its passionate and successful campaign.
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