Castlemaine health service faces closure

Castlemaine District Community Health is in severe financial difficulty and faces possible closure if a solution to the funding shortfall can’t be found.
The not-for-profit organisation provides Mount Alexander Shire with vital services such as homelessness support, nursing, counselling, alcohol and drug services, and community-based programs such as walking and strength training groups.
Without immediate intervention these programs may no longer be available in the shire.
CHIRP board chair Rebecca Edwards said they had explored additional sources of revenue and reduced operational costs, but no amount of austerity could make up for the funding gap.
“Despite the best efforts of staff and over 70 dedicated volunteers, we simply cannot continue without a greater investment from government,” she said.
CHIRP currently leases commercial premises on Mostyn Street, but it has long needed renovation to suit service delivery and be energy efficient.
It is hoped that a new home for CHIRP will be incorporated into the planned Health and Wellbeing Hub, with Castlemaine Health and Mount Alexander Shire Council, but the current crisis puts all this at risk.
CHIRP CEO Dianne Couch said they had been overwhelmed by the outpouring of community support.
Last week local video production company Media Magnet interviewed community members from all walks of life about the impact CHIRP had had on their lives to collate a film to spearhead the push for more funding.
The overriding sentiment of those interviewed was that CHIRP had been providing “community services for the community” for 35 years and was highly valued.
The CEO said those services were gradually being eroded.
“The funding for service delivery is less than the cost of delivering services. For example one of our suppliers increased their fee by four per cent given their need to increase wages. We do not have the capacity to recoup the funding difference by increasing our fees but have to absorb that increased cost,” she said.
“The Department of Health and Human Services has provided us an $80,000 grant to explore ways to progress our integration with the hub, but it doesn’t solve the issue of insufficient funding to maintain services at the current level,” Ms Couch said.
The board is calling for the state government to provide a small injection of funds to maintain services at the current level until the Health and Wellbeing Hub can become a reality.
CHIRP is urging community members to help it secure more funding and retain local services by emailing or calling state health minister Jenny Mikakos at jenny.mikakos@parliament.vic.gov.au or phone (03) 9096 8561. To pledge your support for CHIRP email saveCHIRPservices@cdch.com.au

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