The letter below was written by Wimmera Health Care Group Board Chair Marie Aitken, dated Friday 19th February 2021.
Dear Sir,

We would like to thank the community for actively participating in consultation opportunities as Wimmera Health Care Group (WHCG) explores partnership options with Ballarat Health Services.

We are also very pleased to have Edenhope & District Memorial Hospital join the project and begin community consultation about what the priorities and opportunities are for their health service.

We have heard from the community that the consultation period needed to be extended and we have done that. All community members are encouraged to send through any submissions or feedback to

The Board is undertaking this project to look at ways to further enhance the partnerships between the health services to provide safe and accessible care closer to home. Any partnership options being explored would focus on enhancing service delivery and creating better health outcomes for local people across the Wimmera region. There would be no loss of services.

The community has participated in a range of consultation activities over the last three months (from 30 October to 15 February). We have engaged with over 1000 people through consultation sessions (online and in-person); surveys; meetings with individuals, key groups and organisations; pop up stands; submissions and feedback forms.

It has been great to hear the views of a wide range of community members and team members about their priorities for the future of health services, and the opportunities and challenges of forming a partnership or voluntary amalgamation.

In the coming weeks, we will be meeting with a number of specific groups about their needs and we will be talking with communities through more pop-up stands.

We will share what we have heard from the community through a consultation report in the next few weeks.

A due diligence assessment is currently being undertaken in relation to workforce, financial, service delivery and governance impacts of any partnership.

  • People are travelling great distances to get the health care they need, and this should be provided close to home.

  • Wimmera residents experience higher levels of chronic illness and ill health compared to the rest of rural and metropolitan Victoria. The population is ageing and will need greater access to health care. More services are needed.

  • Attracting and retaining health care professionals (workforce / specialists) is becoming increasingly difficult, with gaps in a few critical clinical areas.

  • We need to strengthen capability - with the right support, we can increase capability to deliver more services locally, at Horsham and across the region for the future.

  • Exploring options is important to ensure the sustainability of health services for the future. Issues such as workforce shortages, financial constraint, infrastructure limitations, and increasing governance expectations and obligations have been pressing issues for some years. The current approach to healthcare governance and service delivery is not sustainable and requires change.


A comprehensive report will be prepared. Some examples of themes that have been coming out of the consultation include:

The community wants the following:
  • Improved services such as: mental health, maternity, chronic illness support, dental, in-home care, orthopaedic surgeons, paediatrics, heart and cancer services, and the ability to be treated locally at Horsham.

  • Better access to health care locally without having to travel.

  • Safe and effective health services for the future and long-term sustainability.

  • More services, broader range of services, improved services and reduced wait times.

  • Strengthened workforce with more training/development, increased skills and capacity and career opportunities.

  • More jobs/staff to address shortages.

  • More doctors and specialists (and variety).

  • New buildings and more high-technology equipment locally.

  • Expanded emergency department and operating suite.

  • A new aged care facility and more aged care services.

  • A new mental health facility.

  • More telehealth, supported by experts.

  • More funding and beds.

  • Better referral pathways and processes.


A number of topics have been raised at consultation sessions and we have advised the following:
  • A decision has not been made on a partnership or a voluntary amalgamation.

With any partnership options being explored please note:
  • There will be no loss of services. Health services will be enhanced and clinical services will increase to meet the needs of our community. The focus is on attracting additional specialists, doctors and staff to address gaps and provide more services.

  • Services will be local. Local hospitals will remain in place with local naming and identity. Local history and identity are important. Horsham would remain as Horsham, Dimboola as Dimboola, Ballarat as Ballarat. The aim of the partnership project is to strengthen services for local communities, close to home, at each location.

  • Fundraising would stay local and funds will be used as intended. Funds raised for a particular location or purpose will remain.

  • There would continue to be staff and management represented at all locations to ensure local decisions are made on the ground where and when they are needed.

  • We will continue to keep communities informed through our website, social media, media, meetings/sessions and letters as we work through this process.

We value the input of the community in relation to this important project and communication will be ongoing. For further information, please email, phone (03) 5381 9293 or visit the website

Marie Aitken
Board Chair