Joining forces together for health

October 3rd, 2019

Are we better together? This is the question facing CHIRP Community Health and Castlemaine Health as they begin exploring whether combining their respective community health services can deliver better health outcomes for local people.

The pilot project, which kicks off on 1 December, will see staff and community take part in conversations about whether joint working can best deliver a contemporary, locally-focused community health service.

Ian Fisher, Castlemaine Health CEO, said: “We want to enrich the services already on offer – that’s absolutely our goal. While CHIRP’s well-publicised funding issues have influenced the timing, if we can work together to design a community health service specifically for the people right here, then why wouldn’t we?”

As part of the pilot project, CHIRP CEO Di Couch will take up a leadership role overseeing community health services for both organisations. Di says that support and good faith from all staff at Castlemaine Health and CHIRP will be essential.

Di said: “Regardless of which organisation we feel we belong to, we all come to work to help people, to help make people’s lives better. If this pilot shows us that there is a way for us to do more, to help more, then we have an obligation to the community to make that happen.”

The pilot project has been designed as a learning exercise. It will enable staff from both organisations to find out what works best – and what doesn’t – for people who use community health services.

Armed with that knowledge, more considered, thoughtful decisions can be made about what the best possible community-based health services might look like for the smaller, dynamic and diverse communities across the Mount Alexander shire. The project will kick off by looking at the less obvious face of health services – the essential administrative and management systems behind the services.

Peggy Ronnau, Castlemaine Health Board Chair, said: “Our boards and leadership teams are really excited about this. We see it as a continuation of the work we’re already progressing in our current partnerships.”

Castlemaine Health has a longstanding relationship with CHIRP, which was reaffirmed with the recent signing of a new memorandum of understanding. The first MOU in 2017 acknowledged the importance of seamless care in primary health and rehabilitation services. The second, signed just last week, commits both organisations to the joint pilot project.

These agreements and the Health and Wellbeing Partnership with Bendigo Health, Maldon Hospital and the Mount Alexander Shire Council, have signalled a new, joined-up approach to health and wellbeing and the prevention of illness in the shire.

CHIRP Board Chair Rebecca Edwards said: “At the end of the day we’re all working to improve the health and wellbeing of the Mount Alexander community. This pilot is an opportunity for us to learn how best to achieve that together.”

The pilot project will conclude in December 2020 and the findings will be shared with staff and community in 2021. If you have an interest in community health and would like to take part, email


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