Local Community up in arms over possible CHIRP closure

Media Release

September 18, 2019


More than 1100 Castlemaine and district locals have called on the Victorian Government to act urgently to save CHIRP Community Health from service cuts and possible closure.

A growing list of petitioners are also writing directly to the Minister for Health, the Hon. Jenny Mikakos, making it clear that they are not prepared to stand by and watch the vital health services CHIRP provides disappear through lack of funding support.

Like many regional areas, Mount Alexander Shire has an ageing demographic, exponential increases in chronic health issues such as diabetes and heart disease, rising homelessness and one of the worst suicide rates in the country.

In their letter to the Minister, CHIRP clients Anne and Hans van Gemert, both 82 years of age, pointed out that keeping ageing people healthy with the support of Community Health paid dividends not only for the individuals, but the community they live in.

‘It is largely because of these programs that we are able to remain active at home and participate in a number of community organisations,’ they said in their letter to Ms Mikakos. ‘By remaining healthy and active, we are able to volunteer in several capacities.

Community Health centres are the most cost-effective means to keep older people out of hospitals and aged care institutions.

For 35 years, CHIRP has been the place that Castlemaine people know they can go to as they age and experience health issues, to receive affordable or fully-funded services. The Centre also supports parents and families struggling with challenges, as well as people looking for help with alcohol and other drugs usage.

Those who are most vulnerable, dealing with homelessness, mental health issues or having newly arrived as refugees, also make their way to CHIRP for support.

CHIRP reaches out to the whole community, and people rely on us to provide quality services that help them lead their healthiest life,’ CEO Dianne Couch said. ‘We are grateful that so many people recognise that, and are taking it into their own hands to seek support for us to continue.

Ms Couch said community health funding was under pressure in Victoria, and CHIRP’s issues were the tip of the iceberg.

Even the largest community health organisations are struggling to balance their books with restricted government funding. But, as usual, regional Victoria, and particularly small community health centres like ours, will be the first to feel the pain. We just hope that it won’t be terminal for us.

CHIRP is asking the Victorian Government to keep community health services local, so that community residents do not face the prospect of having to travel long distances for care when they are at their most vulnerable.

A community meeting is being organised for the 4th week in October and the Health Minister has been invited. An online petition is being launched this week on the CHIRP Community Health website.


Dianne Couch


0425 813 483

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