More births at Cohuna District Hospital

THERE was a 28 per cent increase in births, up from 42 to 56, last year at Cohuna District Hospital, which in late 2017 was threatened with the loss of obstetrics services under the management of Echuca Regional Health.

A review of those services by state healthcare agency Safer Care Victoria requested after community and staff confrontation with management over the issue is still to be finalised, new hospital chief executive officer, Ben Maw reported at the hospital's annual general meeting last week.

While hospital-based services, including midwifery and urgent care, were well utilised at Cohuna last financial year, use of community-based services, particularly district nursing and Meals on Wheels, had declined significantly, hospital board chair, Deanne Van der Drift said.

In her Year in Review summary in the annual report, outgoing board chair Jean Sutherland reported the board faced a challenge in responding to the changing needs of the community, including an increasing incidence of diabetes, heart disease, mental illness and oral health problems and increasing demand for urgent care, primary health services and residential aged care.

There were positive financial results for the hospital, with treasurer Rick Henery reporting it had reduced its deficit by nearly $100,000 in the last financial year, to around $28,000, as a result of efficiencies and increased grants and funding.

Significant community support and bequests would enable the replacement of cardiac monitoring equipment, Mr Maw said, while the details of "very significant works" to upgrade acute service infrastructure as the result of a grant from the Regional Health Infrastructure Fund were still under embargo by the Department of Health and Human Services. 

Member for Northern Victoria, Mark Gepp announced in October that funding for the hospital of $327,903 had been allocated.

The hospital had made improvements and achieved near perfect scores in a patient survey completed by 61 people, on their experiences of the care they received as in-patients, Mr Maw said, whereas the results of the People Matter staff survey left room for improvement around people's feelings of safety.

Mr Maw reported the hospital's involvement, in conjunction with Northern District Community Health, in "16 days of activism" on the Strengthening Hospital Responses to Family Violence policy, which "recognises hospital staff are uniquely placed to identify the signs and risks of family violence" and seeks to embed the practice of identifying and responding to it.

"This is a health problem, and also something that's preventable," Mr Maw said. 

There were 76,000 incidents of family violence that police responded to in Victoria in 2017, he said, and one woman a week around Australia dies as a result of it.

Six Cohuna hospital and aged care staff were recognised for their service at last week's meeting.

They were: aged care nurse unit manager Anne Harrison, 25 years; aged care worker Helen Morris, 20 years; support services worker Dee Borden, 25 years; aged care worker Noelene Hawken, 15 years; aged care worker Sally McCahon, 25 years; and theatre nurse Nathan McGann, 10 years.

Guest speakers Alexia Stephens, the general manager of programs and services at Northern District Community Health, and Helen McKay, a credentialed mental health nurse at NDCH, gave a presentation on mental health programs being run by the service.

HEALTHY. Cohuna District Hospital board president, Deanne Van der Drift, left, guest speaker, Alexia Stephens and chief executive officer, Ben Maw.

HEALTHY. Cohuna District Hospital board president, Deanne Van der Drift, left, guest speaker, Alexia Stephens and chief executive officer, Ben Maw.

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