Health Advisory Council position filled

DRIVING CHANGE: Community health services advocate Maureen Klintberg outside the Mount Gambier Hospital.
DRIVING CHANGE: Community health services advocate Maureen Klintberg outside the Mount Gambier Hospital.

MOUNT Gambier Hospital Health Advisory Council’s presiding member has vowed to instil a new era of greater community advocacy and transparency.

Maureen Klintberg – who spearheaded the renal dialysis unit redevelopment community campaign – was elected presiding member unopposed at a HAC meeting last week.

Her goals include reinvigorating community fundraising, as well as the creation of an inaugural advisory development and liaison committee.

The fledgling committee will act as a vehicle to engage the public, advocate on behalf of the community and seek tangible change.

“I have no intention of hiding regarding the issues that affect patients and staff – as a community we can influence change,” Ms Klintberg said.

The new appointment – which needs to be approved by Health Minister Peter Malinauskas – is seen as a major step forward for the HAC, which has been noticeably out of the spotlight for many years.

Ms Klintberg replaces Mount Gambier councillor Penny Richardson, who was presiding member.

Ms Richardson came under fire from Liberal Party candidate Craig Marsh earlier this year amid claims she did not do enough to advocate on behalf of the community in her role – claims Ms Richardson rejected.

“It is not part of the HAC’s mandate to hold the Mount Gambier Hospital administration to account,” Ms Richardson said at the time.

“I think sometimes there is an expectation left over from the old hospital boards that HACs have influence in staffing and hospital operation matters, but we do not.”

Speaking to The Border Watch yesterday, Ms Klintberg said the HAC had been “somewhat hidden” and vowed to “knock on doors” to lobby for change and push progress.

“As a HAC, we need to be more active and to be prominent in the community so we are a more representative and informed body,” she said.

“The community has not had a good understanding of the HAC’s role – one of our priorities will be to raise the profile of the body,” the health advocate said.

“We are going to let people know who we are, what we do, but the community also needs to realise they need to empower us.”

Ms Klintberg said the community needed to “come on board” and provide the HAC with information.

“We need to know what issues people face in the area of health – this may mean not being able to access services they want, the need for support groups, whether the specialists they need are here and about waiting times,” she said.

“If we know the issues, we can lobby and inform the minister and Country Health SA – our main role will advocate and inform.”

Asked if the HAC had been effective in advocating and informing the community, Ms Klintberg said it could “do a lot more”.

She said there were 12 “enthusiastic” people on the HAC who wanted to see greater community advocacy.

“I am determined we will be a working group working on strategies.”

Ms Klintberg – who only joined the HAC in September last year – said a new advisory development committee would give transparency regarding donations and set a plan identifying the needs of the community and staff.

This would relate to equipment, infrastructure, staff training and identifying priorities.

“We need to identify how their money will be utilised if they donate to the hospital and how it is held through the gift fund trust,” she said.

Ms Klintberg said the committee – formed under the umbrella of HAC – would include staff, HAC representatives, community members and private hospital board delegates.

The HAC is also planning to host a public forum on April 5.

Mr Marsh yesterday welcomed Mr Klintberg’s appointment, arguing she was a “great advocate” for the community.

“Maureen is a straight-shooter and that’s what we need – the HAC needs to have a much stronger voice,” Mr Marsh said.

“Maureen is non-partisan. She will not side with the Labor Government nor the Liberal Opposition, she is on the side of the community.”

Mr Marsh said his party would put community funds under the control of HAC and sweep in a regional board.

“At the moment the minister has the discretion where the money is used and I find that disgusting,” he said.

Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell also welcomed Ms Klintberg’s new prominent role.

“I am very supportive of this appointment – Maureen has been a great advocate for the community for many years,” Mr Bell said.

“Ms Klintberg has spoken to me about a number of issues at the hospital – including volunteering – and she will bring a lot to the HAC.”