Former manager of the Portarlington Health Centre Graeme Howie with former BCH CEOs Austin Paterson and Moyneen Curtis with new CEO Shane Dawson.

Bellarine Community Health – a new chapter

Bellarine Community Health’s (BCH) recent Annual General Meeting was vastly different to that of the past three AGMs where most of the attendees were hostile about losing not just Coorabin and Ann Nichol House aged care facilities, but their sense of community and involvement under the previous BCH Board and CEO John Fendyk.

Since stepping into the role in early August, CEO Shane Dawson has been building bridges, mending fences and listening to the community about regaining their trust and confidence in the organization. “The key to our future is good governance, respecting and listening to our community,” said Mr Dawson. “I am absolutely committed to getting this right. It’s time for us and the community to move forward together to make BCH once again ‘the jewel in the crown’ for health services in the Bellarine.”

Mr Dawson acknowledged the quality and commitment of staff and volunteers at BCH who are the backbone of the organization. “BCH is steeped in history and it is essential to have community input into the organization,” he said.

“BCH is creating an infrastructure that responds to community. An Aged Care Advisory Group and Palliative Care Advisory Group have been set up. Our goal is to have a world class service for the region,” said Mr Dawson. “A Consumer and Community Advisory Committee established in 2016 now provides ideas to support better planning and delivery of health services.”

Guest speaker Austin Paterson, the inaugural CEO of the amalgamated Community Health Centres on the Bellarine, spoke about the service’s history and listed many highlights. “Today is the 25th anniversary of the three health oranisations on the Bellarine. Queenscliff was the first community health centre established in Australia,” said Mr Paterson.

“Health care must be rooted in community for and with families,” he said. “When the Kennett government wanted health services amalgamated the Bellarine community said ‘no’ and when officials arrived they were greeted with locals bearing placards ‘Hands off our health services’.”

Mr Paterson acknowledged the CEO who followed him, Ms Moyneen Curtis, who ‘led the service with expertise and common sense while retaining the essence of community’. He added that the new CEO was in for ‘an exciting but demanding time of review and implementation’.

Ms Curtis has consistently drawn attention to how the previous Board and CEO made many decisions relating to the health service without community consultation, selling off Coorabin’s 40 aged care beds and Ann Nichol House to Arcare and allowing the Eric Tolliday Units to fall into disrepair much to the distress of its aged residents.

“A feeling of optimism and positivity emerged at the recent BCH AGM. The new Board Chair and new CEO provided some positive initiatives for the future. A much needed cultural change should enhance relationships with the community,” commented Ms Curtis.

New board members Dr Virginia Dixon-Swift and Ms Fay Agterhuis will join Margaret Belfrage, Damon Burn, Kristina DiMasi, Doug Grant, Marion Westrup and Adam Murray who will oversee the delivery of quality health services from five locations – Drysdale, Ocean Grove, Queenscliff and Portarlington.

Board members volunteer their time to oversee the governance of the organization, are elected for a three year term and sit on several of the organisation’s operational sub-committees.

Seventy BCH members and others attended the AGM with several commenting they felt hopeful that under the leadership of the new CEO, and a Board skilled in good governance, that the ‘community’ in the title of Bellarine Community Health would be revived.