Recent feedback on the possible amalgamation of Maldon Hospital and Castlemaine Health found two contrasting perspectives. Those who saw opportunity and those who were concerned about the loss of independence.
The feedback process involved over 100 face-to-face meetings, including fortnightly meetings with Maldon Hospital staff, social media posts and a community survey that received 174 responses.
There were eight key themes identified from the findings: management structure, improved services, greater specialisation, transparency, loss of existing services, improved access to a diverse range of GP’s, diversity and local identity.
Community comments from the survey in relation to the key themes include:
‘There must be provision for Maldon residents on the management committee.’
‘Once amalgamation happens there is no going back. I encourage the Maldon board to really consider this and think of the Maldon community. Not many of the board members on the Maldon board are local and live in the community.’
‘I am NOT in favour of the proposed amalgamation. Having lived through the amalgamations of organisations for which I have been employed, I believe that ‘bigger’ is not necessarily ‘better’.’
‘Youth mental health services and support seem quite under serviced…I would like to see greater investment in youth mental health, starting from primary school age.’
‘Access to specialists for those on public healthcare can be hard. I have had difficulty getting an appointment with an ENT specialist as there is only one for public health in Ballarat and none in our area. The waiting list is long.’
‘Love if this happened. Maldon needs more services and this is a great solution.’
‘I am pro any and all improvement in services, in particular care and services for demential (for non-aged care patients) and allied health.’
‘It would be good if more services could be offered by Maldon Hospital. If an amalgamation means this would happen, then our family would support it.’
‘It is important to keep the community informed and promote community consultation. Does the amalgamation provide an opportunity for outreach services to the smaller towns in the region?’
‘Clear communication as to what the amalgamation might look like prior to implementing. Community input into processing with amalgamation.’
‘It is not clear what is to be gained for our Maldon community and hospital from this proposed amalgamation. There is, however, potentially a lot to be lost. We are not in favour of the amalgamation.’
Loss of existing services
‘I am very concerned that current services would be lost and moved to Castlemaine. We need to at least maintain current services and continue to grow more.’
‘Excellent idea, as long as it improves our already great services and does not diminish them.’
‘I fear that this will reduce accessibility to what is already an under-resourced area. The population has expanded and diversified and the health system has not kept up.’
‘Maldon Hospital is an integrated part of Maldon- please do the best to maintain its services. Travel can be a problem for some.’
Improved access to a diverse range of doctors
‘There is a desperate need for more GP’s across the board.’
‘Access to more than one GP in Maldon, preferably a female doctor.’
‘More doctor availability in Maldon, not just one doctor with no options.’
‘Outlying communities and diverse communities need to be front and centre of this decision, as well as consideration of employment and great working conditions for employees.’
‘The merged organisation should gain the ‘Rainbow Tick’ (as CHIRP has) to ensure it is LGBTIQ knowledgeable and welcoming.’
‘Maldon Hospital must retain the name Maldon Hospital.’
‘While I support the idea I have concerns, mainly the loss of identity.’
‘We’ve seen mum miserable, frightened and teary in the big impersonal feel of Castlemaine aged care.’
‘I support the amalgamation if it strengthens the viability of Maldon Hospital in the future and maintains its unique local community connection.’
‘Once amalgamated, Maldon will be forgotten and it will all be about Castlemaine Health.’
The Boards of Maldon Hospital and Castlemaine Health held a Community Presentation webinar last week to report on the community engagement findings which included an outline of their commitments to the community:
The urgent care that is already established will continue to effectively service the community of Mount Alexander.
Maldon Hospital and Castlemaine Health will remain using their regular business and trading names with an underpinning new entity name.
Mountview Home and Jessie Bowe House will continue to provide the same care.
The new entity would ensure that local fundraising for each health service will go directly to that local health service.
Volunteers will be recruited and work locally.
No loss of services at either healthcare facility.
No reduction in staffing levels and people will be able to work when and where they work today, unless they wish to change.
Local representation of the board for both communities would be strongly recommended to the Minister for Health.
Community advisory committee in Maldon and Castlemaine would be mandatory.
The local community to have an opportunity to participate in the future of the health service.
Can’t predict what unification of the two health services will look like, but assure the community that it will strengthen health services in the region.
Vanessa Healy, Maldon Hospital Board Chair, told the Tarrangower Times, “We’ve been looking at the best options to sustain the hospital. There are a lot of external factors such as compliance and administrative burden. Many other small hospitals in Victoria and in the region are in the same boat.
“The community engagement has been very positive. We’ve had excellent discussions with an array of stakeholders and community groups in Maldon, Castlemaine and the district – they’ve all been very constructive.
“Even though the surveys have finished we are still happy to have conversations with people and receive ongoing Feedback. However, these won’t be able to be included in the report.”
“The report will be considered by the boards in coming weeks and months. Should approval be given, it then goes to the Department of Health for their consideration,” said Vanessa.
Final analysis, report prepared.
Health Services review report independently.
If the voluntary amalgamation proposal is recommended and meets requirements of the Health Services Act 1988, the report will be provided to the Health Secretary for review.
If voluntary amalgamation is agreed to be in the public’s interest, the report and recommendations will then be sent to the Health Minister for approval.
If the proposal is approved by the Department, Maldon Hospital and Castlemaine Health will commence the consultation process for new Strategic Plan and new Clinical Services Plan in the new year, which will include defining a shared vision and setting out the long-term direction for the future.
To view the webinar on the engagement findings visit: www.maldhosp.vic.gov/.
This article appeared in the Tarrangower Times, 24 December 2021.