A History of Helping Others

Benalla Health

Located in the north eastern region of Victoria, Benalla’s rich history goes back hundreds of years. Known today for industries including tourism and agriculture, Benalla is positioned between Euroa and Wangaratta on the main road and rail route between Melbourne and Sydney, with Benalla Health serving the immediate and surrounding areas.

At Benalla Health, a great deal has changed since it was created back in 1935. With the addition of more beds, Benalla was incorporated as a Public Hospital in 1953. In the early nineties, the Hospital complex included 69 acute beds, a 30 bed Nursing Home, and Community Health. In the years since, Benalla Health has continued to grow and to provide integrated, lifelong healthcare services to the community with compassion, dignity, and the highest degree of professionalism. These and other core values – and undertaking initiatives to meet the health care needs of residents in the future – will continue long into the future, says Andrew Freeman.

As Chief Executive Officer at Benalla Health for over a year, Mr Freeman brought two decades of related experience along when he joined the organisation. Along with holding a bachelor of business in accounting, a masters in business administration, and numerous courses, his vast experience includes CEO at Yarrawonga District Health Service, a position he held for almost five years.

With a solid Board of Management – with members’ backgrounds including rural community education, science, business, accounting, agriculture, property valuation, human services, public sector, technology and other sectors – Benalla Health remains committed to organising and providing health care services in the Benalla district, especially hospital-based services, including regional services and those provided jointly with other agencies.

Receiving funding from various sources, such as the State Government for most acute care services, and for residential aged care through the Commonwealth, Benalla Health is also funded through private patients and community support donations, including an annual community appeal which raises $50,000 to $60,000 to purchase equipment. It is a demonstration of the respect, confidence and faith locals have for the organisation.

“We see over 7,000 presentations through our Urgent Care Centre a year,” says Mr Freeman of Benalla Health, which is serviced by about 20 general practitioners in town, who provide in-patient and after-hour services to the medical ward and the urgent care centre, and service the aged care facilities. Along with Urgent Care, there are diverse other Hospital Services available at Benalla Health, including medical inpatient services, residential aged care, antenatal clinic and classes, breastfeeding support services, domiciliary, surgical inpatient/operating theatre, X-Ray, and obstetrics, which sees about 120 to 130 births a year and includes antenatal and postnatal care.

Community Health services include dietetics, diabetic education and self-management, occupational therapy, hydrotherapy, physiotherapy, podiatry, speech pathology, palliative care support groups, Benalla and Mansfield carers’, community health nurses, counsellors/social workers, sub-acute care chronic disease management programs, a wound management clinic, and much more. Home Nursing includes a district nursing service and hospital in the home, while other services cover aquamovers, cardiac rehabilitation, and Home and Community Care Services (HACC). Other services accessible through Benalla Health include family day care, dental services, drug and alcohol services, audiology, psychology services, and more.

Meeting Community Needs

Like many community based health providers, Benalla Health is facing the economic and social realities of today’s society. With a 30-bed high care residential aged care facility, the organisation has seen a considerable focus from the Commonwealth Government to keep aged persons in their own homes, with a high proportion of locals 80 years of age and older still living at home. “Our main aim is to service Benalla and the surrounding population in the community the best we can, within the scope that is clinically safe to do,” explains Mr Freeman, who says the organisation is investigating ways to raise funds to rebuild or upgrade its existing facility in the next two to three years.

To improve its service delivery and achieve best practice outcomes, Benalla Health is participating in a number of accreditation processes. With its Health Service undergoing Aged Care Accreditation in the Morrie Evans Wing (MEW) – conducted by the Aged Care Accreditation Agency – the results of the survey were excellent, with the MEW found to be compliant with all 44 Standards, along with its Diagnostic Imaging Department, which also underwent and successfully passed with ongoing accreditation until May of 2016. During 2012 Benalla Health also underwent its Periodic Review that was conducted by the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards. This survey went very well and during this a gap analysis against the new National Standards was also conducted.

Another way Benalla Health stands apart is in the calibre of its volunteers and staff, many of whom live in and near Benalla. “The community has a real love and passion for their health service, and a real commitment to their health services,” says Mr Freeman. Committed to maintaining a quality, sustainable workforce to ensure quality care, the organisation is focused on continual investment in its employees. “I think we continue to provide a real quality health service,” comments Mr Freeman. “We have a commitment to education and up-skilling and training of our staff, and that sets us apart as well. It’s all the quality of what we’re delivering.”

Even with a committed workforce, Benalla Health is active in education, training, and the recruitment of new staff. With an average age of 49 for nursing staff, it is essential new employees in an increasingly competitive market be provided with the tools to make their work relevant today, and years into the future. “We focus on trying to develop our staff, and provide them with education opportunities and professional development opportunities so that Benalla Health is an attractive place for them to want to come and work,” comments Mr Freeman.

In order to provide employees with every possible opportunity to grow and develop, the organisation also offer scholarships, which are open to clinical and non-clinical staff.

Largely led by a team of dedicated General Practitioners, Benalla Health – which is located about two hours from Melbourne – continues to be an integral part of the community. With compassion and empathy not only for patients but their families, co-workers, visitors and others, staff at Benalla Health continue to run a successful health service, one which delivers a full range of community-based services to the community, ranging from diabetes education through to occupational therapy, physiotherapy, podiatry, speech pathology, district nursing services, hospital in the home, and palliative care “We have quite a diverse range of services here that we’re delivering.”

Strategic Plan for the Future

To maintain excellence in the provision of Health Services for all persons, Benalla Health aims to promote health awareness, improve health standards, foster the awareness and prevention of illness and disability, support persons in their home environment, and provide rehabilitation backed by knowledge, technologies, skills, research and ongoing training to meet the health needs of the Benalla community.

In 2009, the organisation drafted a Strategic Plan, focusing on four key directions. Updated during 2012in consultation with the Board of Management, key staff, medical staff, and the community, the Strategic Plan is an essential document to the future success of Benalla Health. The new Plan has adopted seven strategic priorities that it will follow.

“Now we’ve got something that will take us through to 2015, and will help us focus on what are our key strategic areas into the future,” says Mr Freeman. “We’re very committed to maintaining the services that we’re providing to the community; that is a very important part of us. We are entering into some financially challenging times across the health industry, but even though we believe there are some challenges ahead, we will continue to provide services and grow in the community.”

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July 20, 2018, 12:46 PM AEST

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