Wycheproof students have enlisted Nationals leader Peter Walsh and Nationals’ candidate for Mildura Jade Benham in their campaign to save aged and acute care beds at the Wycheproof campus hospital of East Wimmera Health Service.
Mr Walsh says he received a passionately worded letter from the Wycheproof P-12 College school captains and student representative council president, pleading with him to intervene.
He says the students have a genuine case and their willingness to put their hands up to begin this fight was a credit to them and their school.
“Their letter showed these young leaders were all too aware of the importance of services such as these in our smaller rural communities,” Mr Walsh says.
“Jade is standing for the seat of Mildura in November’s state election, and she joined me for the visit to meet with the students and see what could be done to support them,” he says.
In their letter the students – captains Ella Sheahan and Joe Coles, and SRC president Kate Thompson – said they were “highly disturbed” at news of the possible bed reductions.
“These beds are more than just numbers to us, they represent care and treatment for the elderly of our community and for those who are critically ill and need immediate treatment,” they wrote.
As a small rural community we are already disadvantaged as we have reduced access to critical health services and a reduction would mean members of our community would have to travel even greater distances to the important health care they need.”
Mr Walsh says the students were also concerned cuts would impact on the successful ‘buddy program’ the school runs in partnership with the hospital.
He says each year under the program, primary students receive letters from aged care residents and also make several visits to meet the residents and patients.
The letter also said “growing up in the Wycheproof and Nullawil communities means we are very connected to the elderly in our community and every year we go to the hospital and play musical items and sing to the elderly in the residential section of the hospital”.
“Many students in our school also have part-time employment at the hospital and we implore you to ‘fight’ against these possible reductions”.
Mr Walsh says the thing which most appealed to him about the letter was its sense of commitment.
He says the three signatories, on behalf of the student body, demonstrated everything any parent or teacher would want to see in their primary and high-school aged children.
“These are not kids just writing a letter because they can, these are proud young locals who value the work the region’s elderly have done through their lives and they value the sense of shared responsibility for everyone in their community and that’s an increasingly rare thing these days,” Mr Walsh added.
“In many cities people do not even know their next-door neighbours, let alone some of the elderly in a local aged care facility,” he says.
“But I will leave it to the students to have the final word on this alarming development of events.”
Their letter concluded it was important people “understand how vitally important these resources are to a rural township such as ours. It is imperative these beds do not disappear as this will only result in detrimental health outcomes”.