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NSW first to move on health reforms

Eighteen networks are set to replace eight existing area health services in NSW.

The NSW government has moved to implement the commonwealth’s health reforms by introducing a bill into Parliament to establish its new local hospital networks.

State Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt said the Health Services Amendment Bill (Local Health Networks) 2010, tabled last month, will provide for 18 networks.

They will replace eight existing area health services and are to be administered by a chief executive and governing council that includes local clinicians and community representatives.

Tebbutt said the scheme would strengthen both local decision making and community involvement.

The networks are a key component of the federal overhaul of the national health system, agreed to at a Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in April under then prime minister Kevin Rudd.

The deal delivered an extra $1.2 billion in funding to the NSW health system.

The NSW proposal calls for eight networks in the greater Sydney metropolitan area - which includes the Central Coast, the Illawarra and Blue Mountains - and seven regional networks.

Two statewide specialty networks for children’s health and forensic mental health will also be set up, while another will cover the facilities of St Vincent’s Public Health Services in Sydney.

They are expected to be in place by January, with a six- to 12-month transition period.

Tebbutt said the Bill will establish the networks’ governing councils and criteria for membership that is designed to ensure members have an appropriate mix of skills.

Among the skill sets are management and business expertise, clinical experience, and an understanding of local issues.

It will also make clear that the chief executives of the networks are accountable to their governing councils, she said.

NSW Premier Kristina Keneally last month said the state would be the first to roll out the scheme.


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