MAHER QUITS HEALTH ROLE

BATHURST Health Council has lost two of its leading voices with the resignation of both the chair and deputy chair.

Julie Ann Maher and Graham Webster led the organisation for the past 20 months but have both now stepped down.

The outspoken former chair Ms Maher, who yesterday described herself as a “plain speaker”, said she was not interested in political correctness.

“As such I feel I can do more for the people of Bathurst from outside Bathurst Health Council,” she said.

“I believe openness and transparency and consultation are the community’s right, and at times I have felt constraints have been placed on us in this regard.

“I also feel politics play too great a role in this entirely voluntary organisation which was specifically set up to represent the community and protect the interests of the people of this region.”

Ms Maher became acting chair of the Bathurst Health Council in February 2008 as the city was plunged into an unprecedented health crisis following the opening of the new trouble-plagued Bathurst Base Hospital.

In March of that same year she was unanimously elected health council chair and Mr Webster was elected deputy chair.

Mr Webster did not wish to comment on his resignation yesterday, but said he would continue to put his time into serving the community in more productive ways.

But Ms Maher said her decision to leave the organisation was a difficult one.

“Unfortunately there is a history of people resigning from the health council because they feel thwarted,” Ms Maher said.

“Sometimes robust discussion can be misconstrued as criticism and I believe that has led to a failure to totally and fairly represent the community.

“There has also been a lot of hostility towards the media. To my mind freedom of the press is a vital democratic right.

“All forms of media have an important role to play in encouraging vigorous debate.”

She said she is proud of Bathurst Health Council’s record over the past five years in supporting hospital staff and community members, their support of the medical profession’s endeavours to make the city’s new hospital safe and functional, and for joining the community in keeping the pressure on the health service and government to ensure Bathurst got the hydrotherapy pool it deserves.

Other achievements include the signing of a memorandum of understanding for the protection of Daffodil Cottage, the introduction of a successful art program at the hospital, and the push to ensure the heritage building was part of the hospital as originally planned.

“I’ve enjoyed the role and I have enjoyed working with the community and all the staff at Bathurst Base Hospital but I have to be true to myself,” Ms Maher said.

“The community places a certain amount of trust in us to speak on their behalf and I want to be able to do that to the fullest extent. But I feel I am unable to do this from within the health council.”

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