Alpine health threat
Local board says government inaction risks service viability
ALPINE Health believes its long-term sustainability is under threat unless government acts to support its plans to replace ageing infrastructure.
The community health service’s management board, through chairman Brian King, has told the House of Representatives’ regional develop- ment and decentralisation select committee that the service has long been “a prime example” of the synergies small communities can deliver without significant investment.
“Alpine Health, a multipurpose health service…has shown that innovation is the key to success,” Mr King wrote in the board’s submission to the committee, which heard from North East and Border organisations and others at a public hearing in Wodonga last week.
“Trading on the ethic that ‘Local means local’, Alpine Health has developed from a humble assemblage of three small health services in 1996 to (become) the largest employer in Alpine Shire.
“(It is) a sought-after provider of home care services and a training provider that is seeking to launch muchneeded nurse education programs locally, nationally and internationally.
“We…and our committed staff look forward to providing on-going community health support into the future.”
But the board said the sustainability of the service was at risk.
“Our plans to replace ageing infrastructure have not been supported by government and our core function – our ability to provide modern aged care facilities for locals – has been eroded by government support for private enterprise facilities in Bright and Myrtleford,” Mr King wrote.
“This is a fundamental flaw that can only be overcome by new government investment.”
The board told the select committee that the investment needed to place Alpine Health in a viable position for future service delivery would pale to insignificance when compared with the fully absorbed cost of staffing, infrastructure and technology required to decentralise government departments.
But the Alpine communities’ organisation – the largest multi-purpose health service in the country – had a strong record of management and innovation which should be recognised by government.
“…Alpine Health seeks the inquiry’s support in endorsing our need for vital funding for the infrastructure renewal that is essential to us continuing to deliver our core functions to the community into the future,” Mr King wrote.
The service delivers health care for the people of Bright, Mt Beauty and Myrtleford in three broad areas – acute hospital-based services, residential aged care services, education and training and primary care services.
Its acute hospital-based services range from a nine-bed facility in Bright to 10 in Mount Beauty and 15 in Myrtleford.
These services further include perinatal, some out-patient and day-based surgical and endoscopy, and X-ray services.
Alpine Health also provides urgent care – which is unfunded – and 30 high aged care places in Myrtleford, 20 in Mt Beauty, and 40 low aged care places in Bright.
Its Alpine Institute is also highly regarded for its health education and training courses and is developing a certificate-level diploma of nursing for delivery in 2018-19.
“…There needs to be more government recognition of the needs of rural and remote communities as it is clear that residents do not have the same level of access to health services and travel to distant centres is often the norm,” Mr King wrote.
A fresh approach was needed – including recognition of the need for public investment in local public health services – rather than governments’ preference to fund private enterprise ‘user-pays’ aged care services in major regional centres.