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National health network needs local attention: academic

Territory hospitals could be better administered by two local bodies, says academic.

Differing regional health challenges facing the Northern Territory could be met with the development of truly “local” Local Hospital Networks (LHN) rather than a sole body.

This is according to an academic who said territory hospitals could be better administered by two local bodies representing central and northern Australia as part of the federal government’s national health reform.

“Separate Local Hospital Networks for the Top End and one for Central Australia will account for the distinct nature and differences characterising Australia’s regions and strong identification residents have with their locales,” said Professor John Wakerman, director of the Alice Springs based Centre for Remote Health (CRH).

The characteristics of Central Australia warranted careful consideration of a separate network, he said.

“There are different referral patterns to the top end. Many patients from the very remote communities of the region are seeking services in Alice Springs and then travelling to Adelaide, not Darwin, for further treatment,” he said.

“I recognise the need to streamline services, but putting the geographically vast Northern Territory under one network may not account for very different social, cultural and health differences. The tropical top end and the desert people of the Centre both require specific and dedicated focus.”

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