By 1994 it was estimated that there were more that twenty small hospitals across rural Victoria that were facing closure due to changes in government funding structures and low patient turnover.
It appeared that smaller rural hospitals which offered limited surgical services and had no waiting lists were under scrutiny.
Adding to the apprehension was a realisation that the funding structure, "Casemix" which had been introduced in 1993, concentrated on the hospital receiving money according to how many patients they treated. Real concern was beginning to surface in many small rural hospitals about the possible closure of some health services
Formation of Alpine Health
The formation of the Alpine Health Group on March 30th, 1995 saw the beginnings of an earnest investigation by Bright, Myrtleford, Mount Beauty and Beechworth communities into the concept of a formal merger of their rural hospitals. The Alpine Shire had recently formed (1994) and this saw the amalgamation of the three towns under the umbrella of a single local government body. Beechworth later withdrew as the MPS formed to align with the new local government boundaries.
Negotiations were well underway between representatives from the three hospitals and the Victorian Department of Human Services for the establishment of the first Shire based Multi-Purpose Service in the state. By 1996 there were already three multi-purpose services operational in Victoria with a further two sites in the developmental stages. Those three were Otway Health and Community Service, Far East Gippsland Health and Support Service and the Upper Murray Health and Community Service.
An Alpine Health Steering Committee formed that was chaired by Mr Les Hocking of the Myrtleford Hospital, Deputy Chairman was (the late) Mr Otto Schmaltz from the Bright Hospital and the Co-ordinator was Tawonga District General Hospital CEO, Mr David Dart . Other members included equal representation from each hospital, one representative from the Alpine Shire and Ovens Community Health Service and the North East Victorian Division of General Practice. Their aim was to meet on a regular basis to examine minutely all aspects of a MPS and its effect and viability within the three very different communities.
A Multi-Purpose Service
The push for a Multi-Purpose Service came from a joint Commonwealth/State task force, established in 1991 to address the problems of service provision in rural and remote communities. The objectives were to:
- Improve the flexibility of health programs,
- To provide a more cost effective aged care and health service,
- Enhance the matching and coordination of aged care and health services to community needs.
The Alpine Health Multi-Purpose Service was approved by the State Minister for Health and Aged Care Services and was to commence on July 1st, 1996 but due to unforeseen legal complexities linked with the amalgamation there was a three month delay and the new organization was established on 1 November 1996.
Alpine Health receives flexible ‘block’ funding jointly from the Federal and State Governments and this is applied flexibly across health and aged care services to respond to and meet local community needs.
Alpine Health was established in November 1996 through the amalgamation of three rural hospitals and residential facilities – Bright District Hospital and Health Services, Tawonga District General Hospital, Myrtleford District War Memorial Hospital, Barwidgee Lodge and Kiewa Valley House nursing homes, Hawthorn Village Hostel and Myrtleford extended care accommodation centre.
The three hospital sites are now officially called;
- Bright District Hospital and Health Services
- Myrtleford District War Memorial Hospital & Myrtleford Extended Care Accommodation Centre Inc.
- Mt Beauty District Hospital
The names of the hospitals site have been shortened for ease of use to;
- Bright Hospital
- Myrtleford Hospital
- Mt Beauty Hospital