It has been three years since the amalgamation of Hepburn Health Service and Kyneton District Health to become Central Highlands Rural Health on November 30, 2019.

Board Chair Phillip Thomson reflected on this milestone, the community benefits, and the growing depth of talent across the health service and at the Board level. At the time of the amalgamation, Phillip was the Chair of Hepburn Health Service, having served on its Board for six years.

After almost nine years of dedicated service, Phillip has achieved many things but, he is most proud of his role in positioning the organisation to better serve the communities of the Hepburn and Macedon Ranges Shires.

He is also full of admiration and praise for the quality, breadth and depth of services delivered across CHRH’s five campuses of Clunes, Creswick, Daylesford, Kyneton and Trentham, and the capacity and capability of staff to keep patients, residents, and clients safe, especially over past two and a half years.

“I know at times the staff have been incredibly tired, but they have shown great resilience and commitment to the health and well-being of their community,” he said. “And I hope the staff are as proud of themselves as the Board is of them.”

“The growing burden of compliance and the desire to deliver better services to meet the future healthcare needs of our growing rural townships was the impetus for our decision to amalgamate with Kyneton District Health,” he said.

Phillip also acknowledged the commitment, contribution, and service of Peter Matthews, the former Kyneton District Health Board Chair at the time of the amalgamation and the immediate past Chair of CHRH. “We may have very different personalities and leadership styles, but we were united on the strategic direction to deliver the best rural health service possible for our community,” Phillip said.

He said that despite the challenges of the pandemic, the benefits of amalgamation continued with the larger, more flexible organisation able to work closely across the expanded footprint, sharing resources and spreading best practices across programs and sites.

“We’ve also been fortunate to attract grants to continue the redevelopment of our Creswick Aged Care facility and upgrade theatres at Daylesford during this time.

And according to Phillip, the profile and reputation of Central Highlands Rural Health are on the rise. “As a larger rural health service, offering acute, community health, and aged care services, we readily attract high calibre clinical and non-clinical staff keen to relocate to the Macedon Ranges and Hepburn shires,” Phillip said. “This depth of talent is reflected across the organisation.”

CHRH has also recently recruited three new highly skilled Board Directors. Professor Pauline Stanton, Ms Sally Kirkright, and Ms Louise Johnson were appointed in July and join an illustrious Board comprising Ms Kate Redwood AM, the Hon. Mary Delahunty, Ms Bronwyn Malignaggi, Ms Karen O’Sullivan, Mr Ken Gray, Professor Alexander Heriot, and Professor Jeffrey Zajac.

Louise Johnson has over 20 years of executive and board-level experience across the government and not-for-profit sectors in the health sector. Louise is a previous member of the Victorian Board of the Medical Board of Australia and the Occupational Therapy Board of Australia and Chair and Board Member of Women’s Health Victoria.

Sally Kirkright is a commercial senior executive and non-executive director with experience gained within the banking and finance, sports, mental health and wellbeing, family and social services industries. She is skilled in strategic development and implementation, leadership, business and digital business transformation, acquisitions and growth, financial management, risk management and corporate governance.

Pauline Stanton has held leadership positions, including Dean, Deputy Dean, Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor Business International, and Head of School in business faculties at RMIT, La Trobe University and Victoria University. She is currently Co-Editor in Chief for Personnel Review, an international human resource management journal.

“Serving on this Board with such esteemed Directors, and now as Chair, has had many rewards,” Phillip said. “At the end of the day, we are all motivated by giving back to the community and keeping people safe.”