Ten months later and hundreds of political bickering days after the infamous Federal Government takeover in the marginal electorate of Braddon in North West Tasmania, today the Mersey Hospital is back under State Government control.

Federal Minister Nicola Roxon made the announcement but it was left to State Minister and now Deputy Premier Lara Gidding to front the local press — not outside the Mersey hospital but outside a colonial pub on the banks of the Mersey river in nearby Devonport.

Apparently the only viable tender to run the hospital came from the State Government, although this was disputed by local Liberal Senator Richard Colbeck, and the Mersey Hospital Action Group Chair Steve Martin.

The hospital employees will be under State awards, which had been one of the many sources of bickering since August.

The hospital will not get its Intensive Care Unit reinstated, but will have a High Dependency Unit instead and be developed as a Centre for Excellence in elective surgery.

The Hospital Management Board, which has already been disbanded, will be replaced by an Advisory Board covering all aspects of health “across the entire region”.

The loss of the ICU came as no surprise, but expanding the brief of the Board to embrace the whole region and all aspects of health was. The Minister was asked about this, which she confirmed.

Predictably the Hospital Action Group is very disgruntled, and said so, but are being seen increasingly as unrealistically parochial.

Focusing on all aspects of health across the region builds on work already being done by the Cradle – Coast Authority which represents all local government councils.

It is this strategic initiative which has the greatest potential for improving health service delivery. It’s a pity that ten months have been lost by crass political expediency.