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Amalgamation process

In December, the State Government announced that Western Health will lead the development of a new Melton Hospital. When completed, it will become part of the Western Heath service network.

The announcement opened the way for a wider examination of the future of healthcare needs of Melbourne’s West. Given this major development in the two catchments, and following four years of close partnership between the services, the Western Health board and Djerriwarrh Health Service’s Administrator agreed to explore the community benefits of a potential amalgamation. This project will examine how a voluntary amalgamation could deliver a net improvement for health services in Melbourne’s growing West.

Western Health and Djerriwarrh Health Services already share services, have overlapping boundaries and are increasingly interdependent. Increasing collaboration could better serve the people of Melbourne’s western growth corridor.

Health services must demonstrate community benefit, provide a report to be considered and endorsed by both Boards, then make a joint recommendation for review by the Department of Health and Human Services. This is then prepared for the Minister’s own recommendation and confirmation by Governor-in-Council.  

The Health Services Act (1988) requires any amalgamation of health services in Victoria to be voluntary and agreed between boards.

Any amalgamation needs to deliver a net improvement to the provision of services for the communities served by each health service. This could include better sharing of resources, increased access to higher levels of clinical expertise and a broader range of diagnostic equipment, clearer referral pathways, reduced duplication, increased opportunities for staff and a stronger funding base to support patient needs.

Community engagement

From January to March, discussions were held with staff, senior leaders from both health services, hospital and health service support and advisory groups, as well as fundraising groups.

This website for community input and questions launched in early February and has received 77 responses, all reviewed by chief executives at both health services, and responded to individually.

As COVID-19 restrictions are now beginning to ease, a decision has been made to recommence the process of engaging with the community during November and December about the potential voluntary amalgamation.

We welcome all comments, concerns and feedback on the ‘Community Input’ section of this website.

The health and safety of our staff and community members is always our first priority.

We thank you for your patience and understanding.

All responses and issues raised during engagements sessions and through the website are noted and forwarded onto the group overseeing the project for consideration. All are being carefully considered. 

COMMON QUESTIONS ASKED SO FAR

There is absolutely no intention to close Bacchus Marsh Hospital or Grant Lodge, whatever the outcome of this process. Both are crucial services for the Bacchus Marsh community, as shown by the significant funding support for Bacchus Marsh and Melton Regional Hospital. With continuing rapid population growth, increased local service demand is expected.

If an amalgamation is recommended and approved, there will likely be changes in how some support and administration services are delivered, but that will only become evident over the medium term.

As it stands, both health services are managing rapidly expanding catchment populations, meaning more services, skills and infrastructure are required to ensure better client care and service provision. Under that scenario, it’s expected staffing numbers overall will increase independent of the outcome.

Community programs will continue. Djerriwarrh community services provide high-quality care and are a vital service in and around Bacchus Marsh. A key part of the current process is understanding how these services could be integrated with Western Health network services.

Ensuring effective community representation and local leadership is an important consideration in any potential amalgamation. There will always be the requirement of local executive leadership. Drawing on the examples of other service amalgamations, the executive leadership of an amalgamated entity routinely spends time at every site. In this scenario the executive leaders would also be visible and present across Djerriwarrh Health Services. Western Health would also ensure local community representation on the Diversity and Community Advisory Committee.

Patients always have the choice of where they are referred onto, provided it is clinically appropriate. If people want to go to hospitals or specialist medical services in, for example, Ballarat or Geelong instead of Sunshine or Footscray, they can do so.

Local health infrastructure in communities like Bacchus Marsh and Melton will be maintained to ensure effective and accessible services for the catchment population. Continued population growth means there will be a focus on growing local services, not reducing or centralising.

Aboriginal community health and support is a key and important  consideration of the project. Both health services provide specific services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities,
including Djerriwarrh Health Services’ award-winning Babaneek Booboop project and Western Health’s award-winning maternity programs.

Exploring the potential benefits of amalgamation includes a review of clinical service models. If amalgamation is recommended and approved, there would be one central waiting list to capture patient information, related to outpatient services and elective surgery, to provide great visibility of numbers and waiting times. This will give patients a choice of where they would prefer to receive their care (where clinically appropriate). A guiding principle for this process is there are no plans to reduce local service provision.

As part of any amalgamation, DjHS would draw on Western Health’s resources and network infrastructure, while keeping in mind site specific requirements. The outcomes of this are yet to be determined.

An independent project manager has been commissioned to help the two health services prepare an amalgamation proposal, which contains an assessment of whether an amalgamation will provide better health services and is in the public interest. The report will examine the future healthcare needs in the expanding region, and what community benefits would be expected to flow from a voluntary amalgamation of the two organisations.

If the report clearly demonstrates net community benefit and each health service board were to recommend a voluntary amalgamation to the State Government, this report would then be presented to the Health Minister for approval. All engagement, from staff to the wider community, will feed into this process.

In response to the feedback we received, and the vital need to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, in early August the decision was made to put the community engagement around the possible voluntary amalgamation on hold until further notice.

Our sole priority is the delivery of the highest quality care to our local communities during COVID-19.

We will provide further updates when engagement on the process will resume and will continue to provide responses to any community questions.

Both health services place a great deal of importance on the role of volunteers. Whatever changes may happen, community members will continue to be able to volunteer, support and make donations to support health services in their communities.

Contact us

If you have further queries, please email us via our ‘Community Input’ page.