ERH aims for the blue sky

By Charmayne Allison

THE development of an Echuca medical school and expansion of local mental health services were among the big dreams discussed at Echuca Regional Health’s community board meeting recently.

The meeting gave locals a chance to glimpse the hospital’s five-year plan, with the need to address booming community health demands a top priority.

As part of the plan, the hospital will discuss actions with the Department of Health and Human Services to achieve Level 4 maternity services and Level 3 neonatal services at ERH.

‘‘This will largely be about increased paediatric coverage so we can offer a higher level of maternity services,” chief executive Nick Bush said.

‘‘We want to be able to treat more unwell mothers and babies so we can keep them here instead of moving them on to other hospitals.

‘‘We will need to increase our number of paediatricians before we can achieve these levels. It may be necessary to upgrade the high-dependency unit as well as part of this process. But it’s a realistic goal for the coming five years.’’

The development of an Echuca medical school in the next five to 10 years was also on the to-do list.

“This would particularly support local young people through medical undergraduate training, internships, and registrar training; and may help to attract more young rural people into medical careers,” Mr Bush said.

ERH will also prepare a medical workforce plan to identify new models for blending specialist and generalist medical teams in high priority services.

The hospital will also develop an integrated chronic illness management strategy and a technology strategy which will prioritise investment in clinical, administrative and resource-management systems, as well as medical equipment.

“We are also planning to prepare unit-by-unit plans based on overall forecasts and strategies,” Mr Bush said.

“Each plan needs to consider future demand profiles, workforce needs and technological innovation and change. Particular attention should be paid to general medicine.

“Based on the unit-by-unit plans, we’ll consider an infrastructure strategy which allocates priority to investment in upgrades, modernisation and expansion of facilities.”

Executive director of community services Kathryn Eyre said ERH planned to reduce potentially preventable hospital admissions in the coming five years and ensure emergency department presentations increased at less than the current 10 per cent per annum.

The strengthening of community mental health services and home-based service options such as hospital in the home, community nursing and palliative care are also on the cards.

The meeting closed with a farewell to retiring directors Chris Bilkey and Greg Dwyer.