No plans to close hospital: board

Heyfield hospital’s board is preparing a new strategic plan.

And contrary to rumours, it does not include any move to close the hospital and concentrate purely on maintaining Laurina Lodge.

Heyfield Hospital Incorporated board chair Mary-Beth Higgins assured the Gippsland Times closure was the furthest thing from the board’s plans.

“The current strategic plan is about to expire, so we are embarking on creating our new plan. That is quite normal practice,” she said.

Ms Higgins explained the hospital, as a small “community owned” former bush nursing hospital was constantly challenged financially as it received no recurrent funding from either federal or state governments.

“We rely on our privately insured patients,” she said.

“Central Gippsland Health Service leases three beds, and there are sometimes transitional care patients, although that is not a predictable or reliable source of funds.”

CGHS chief executive Frank Evans reiterated CGHS’s support for the current arrangements with Heyfield Hospital, saying it provided management, corporate and support services for Heyfield Hospital. 

“The (Heyfield Hospital) board is about to commence a new strategic plan and through this process look at how it can develop a sustainable health service, especially taking into account the federal government’s aged care reforms,” he said.

Mr Evans explained that although Heyfield Hospital did not have an emergency department, it still played an important role in local urgent medical care.

“(Heyfield Hospital) does not have an emergency department; emergency patients come to Sale where there is a designated level four emergency department,” he said.

“(Heyfield Hospital) has an urgent care centre which is set up to a range of lower complexity urgent care needs of the community and, most often, after hours and by doctors from the excellent local GPs practice with support from nursing staff at the hospital.”

Mr Evans said in conjunction with the Heyfield Hospital board, CGHS would continue to work to secure a sound future for the health service. 

“This involves ongoing change, which is challenging for some people and exciting for others. 

“There are many rumours floating around the community at the moment and some of these, no doubt, are a response to change and because we are working to ensure staff are informed of the financial challenges facing the health service,” he said. 

Mr Evans said the Heyfield Hospital and CGHS boards and staff were keen to set out a sustainable future for the health service and one that reinforced that it was an important part of a network of health and community services to meet the needs of Heyfield and surrounding communities.

“The (Heyfield Hospital) board and management are very keen to keep the community informed and there will be a number of opportunities for people to have input into the new strategic plan for the health service as it is developed over the coming months,” he said.