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Health sector calls on all politicians to stand with community health

Posted 15 August 2018

Eighteen-year-old Jorge doesn’t know where he would be today, had it not been for the care and support provided to him five years ago by his local community health service.

‘I was 13 and living in a family violence refuge with my mum and younger brother and, to make matters worse, I was getting really badly bullied at school.

‘I was really angry and confused and not sure how to deal with it – my thoughts often went to hurting others or to hurting myself.’

Enter Merri Health. One of 29 registered community health services across Victoria that deliver comprehensive ‘wrap-around’ health services to some of the state’s most disadvantaged people.

‘I was referred to a program called TRACK OUT, and it changed my life,’ says Jorge.

Through the program, Jorge was able to go on camps and build good friendships with other kids. He started to realise that he was likeable.

Accessible to all Victorians, the state’s community health services deliver primary health, human services and community-based support that meet local community need including localised responses to social and health issues.

‘They play a crucial role in plugging gaps in the broader health system and, with a highly skilled health workforce and existing ties to the Victorian Government, are well placed to release even more pressure from overburdened public hospitals,’ says Tom Symondson, Chief Executive of the Victorian Healthcare Association, the peak body representing Victoria’s health system.

‘Unfortunately, these opportunities have not been taken, and the platform is gradually being weakened by enforced competition and funding cuts, and now is the time to act and leverage this unique platform to the benefit of all Victorians.’

Mr Symondson was today joined by thousands of health workers – ranging from mental health workers to physiotherapists, public dentists, speech pathologists, general practitioners and beyond – from across the state who called on all political parties to take action to leverage and support community health.

‘We are calling on our politicians to pledge their support for a number of very achievable actions including investment in hospital diversion projects, a dedicated infrastructure fund and funding that keeps pace withan ever-increasing demand,’ says Star Health’s Mr Damian Ferrie one of 29 community health CEOs calling for action.

Mr Ferrie says that government commitment to these ‘asks’ would enable community health services to provide an even stronger health safety net for vulnerable Victorians, such as those who are experiencing family violence and those who can’t get the help they need anywhere else.

‘To say that you stand with community health is supporting our services, which are located across Victoria, to play a stronger role in an overburdened healthcare system – political parties must use this opportunity to take people out of emergency departments and off outpatient waitlists and to give people (like Jorge) support and opportunity.’

Jorge has now started a Diploma of Community Services, and his mum has even joined him on thecourse.

‘The services offered have provided such good support for mum as well, so she also wants to give back,’ says Jorge. ‘We didn’t really know much about community health before my referral, but it has really had such a positive impact on our lives.’

For campaign details and to make the pledge go to: www.standwithcommunityhealth.com.au

Join the conversation on social media with: #standwithcommunityhealth

Background

The Victorian Auditor General Officer’s audit into the Community Health Program, one of the funding streams provided to community health services in Victoria, painted a picture of a sector that punches above its weight, a sector that is creative and dynamic; one that helps vulnerable people and is a trusted partner for government (https://www.audit.vic.gov.au/report/communityhealth-program)

What the VHA presents, on behalf of its members, is a sensible way forward. It is a way that Victoria’s political parties can leverage community health in support of the broader health systemand enable services to achieve the best possible outcomes for every Victorian. These outcomes will see community health services having their facilities upgraded to provide world class care. These outcomes will see community health services given their due recognition as health providers of choice to priority populations. These outcomes will ensure communities in growth regions are not short changed with ‘hubs’ of services that are not holistic nor dynamic like community health. These outcomes will foster innovation and move people to the most appropriate care setting. Most of all, these outcomes make sense and see us leverage a platform for the benefit of all. In the lead up to the 2018 Victorian Election, the VHA calls upon all politicalparties to pledge to:

  • Leverage Growth Area Infrastructure Contribution funding to establish new community health centres. These centres would be run by existing community health services and be registered under the Health Services Act.
  • Allocate Victoria’s 29 registered community health services as preferred supplier status fromthe Victorian Government for provision of services to vulnerable communities.
  • Establish an annual $60 million dedicated community health service capital fund to ensure existing facilities can adequately support growth and continue to provide a service offering that meets the needs of the community in fit-for-purpose facilities.
  • Deliver additional funding to enable community health services to keep pace with demand brought about by population growth and to provide a stronger health safety net for vulnerable Victorians, to help keep them healthy and out of public hospital emergency departments.
  • Invest $4 million to fund six pilot hospital diversion projects including supporting partnerships between hospitals and community health services that see people presenting to hospital appropriately triaged to a community health setting, ensuring people receive the right care inthe right place, alleviating demand on the public hospital system and ensuring communityhealth services are adequately equipped to support these clients.
  • Increase public dental funding to reduce wait time and ensure more people receive dental carein a timely manner, reducing the potential impacts on other areas of their health.
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