Cobaw Board Votes to Merge and New Funding Announced Today


Cobaw Community Health today announced two new milestones in the delivery of services in the Macedon Ranges – a vote by the Board and new government funding for building works. Both will strengthen Cobaw’s ability to maintain and strengthen local services and programs.

Victorian Minister for Health and Ageing David Davis today announced a grant of $733,000 to build new facilities in Romsey in partnership with the Lancefield Romsey Bendigo Community Bank.

The building will ensure Cobaw can meet growing demand for services in the east of the shire by delivering increased services in a central location, rather than relying on the current outreach service provision.

The building will include consulting areas and staff accommodation to ensure multiple services can be delivered from the site.

The news comes a week after the Board of Cobaw Community Health formally voted unanimously to support the move to merge with Bendigo Community Health Services. Currently the merger discussions and due diligence processes are progressing, with the vote at Board level an important milestone in the process towards the merger.

“We have a range of strong and innovative programs that are widely recognised by government as essential and high quality services in the Macedon Ranges, well suited to community needs. The Government support to ensure our services have a permanent home in Romsey is most welcome,” said Acting CEO Margaret McDonald.

“In addition, the Board’s formal vote to support the merger, after reviewing the due diligence information to date and discussions between the two organisations, is a vote of confidence that our programs and support services can and will continue in our region.”

The Bendigo Community Health Services Board has similarly voted unanimously to support the merger. An announcement next week is expected on the date that the merger proposal will be put for a formal vote of members. The merger requires the support of members to become a reality sometime in the new year.

“This is an exciting time for Cobaw. We are in the process of finalising our new client management system and confirming and consolidating a number of our service and funding agreements,” said Ms McDonald.

“These developments, along with the support of the merger with an organisation that can strengthen our position in the region and help Cobaw attract further services and support for the people of our communities, means the organisation is well positioned for a strong future.

“Our staff and Board are focused on ensuring Cobaw secure our future and flourish, so we can do what we do best – adapt to the emerging needs in our community as well as continue the range and depth of our existing service provision,” she concluded.

Cobaw & Bendigo Community Health Services merger discussions on track

Merger discussions between Cobaw Community Health and Bendigo Community Health Services are proceeding as planned with both organisations remaining committed to the plan.

Due diligence processes are almost completed and both boards believe they will be in a position to make a decision about next steps within coming weeks, including the development of a formal Memorandum of Understanding to enable broader engagement of staff in joint planning and establishment of transitional arrangements. No decision regarding the merger will be final unless it is carried by the members of both organisations.

“Discussions between the Boards of both organisations have been productive and congenial,” said Cobaw Community Health Acting CEO, Margaret McDonald. “We have both been systematically going through the processes we need to in order to progress the merger, and remain very committed to that process.”

Ms McDonald reiterated that central to any decision was the best interests of the communities involved.

“For Cobaw, that means the people of the Macedon Ranges. We entered into this merger discussion with Bendigo Community Health because we wanted to ensure our services can adapt to the changing needs of our community and progress to date confirms our confidence that this is the way to go,” Ms McDonald said.

“The work that we have completed to date demonstrates the similarities of our organisations in terms of values, service profiles, commitment to community, and talented staff. The process toward a merger is progressing and the outcomes will be determined by the Boards and members of each agency. Margaret and I have already experienced the value of working in partnership and can see the broader benefits that an enduring closer relationship would bring.” Kim Sykes, CEO Bendigo Community Health Services.

The decision is expected to be finalised in November 2014, after all processes have been completed. Staff, stakeholders, company members and communities will be kept informed as discussions progress.

Cobaw works to maintain services in the face of funding cuts

A series of funding cutbacks by State and Federal governments has meant that all services provided by Cobaw Community Health have had to change the way they are structured or delivered in a bid to keep going.

“It is a very difficult time in community services everywhere,” said outgoing CEO Anne McLennan, who retires on 27 June after three years in the position and more than 30 years’ experience in non-government, local government and community sectors in both Victoria and Western Australia.

“We are having to make some very difficult decisions which include cutting back the amount of time services can stay open each week, and which services can continue to be free for everyone, or where a fee for service can be offered for those able to pay a modest fee,” she said.

While some cuts are still to be passed, they have been the subject of budget announcements and expected to take effect by the end of 2014. For example, Youth Connections, a Federally funded program to support young people disadvantaged through leaving school early to gain employment, has been cut, which means Cobaw will no longer be able to provide the program. In doubt beyond December is federal funding that currently supports services or programs in parenting, emergency relief and young people.

By the end of June State funding ends which enables Cobaw to provide the Diabetes education program, along with home and community care funding (to support older people in the community to live independently). Funding for a number of other services are in doubt, including money for some allied health services such as speech pathology and cardiac rehabilitation, and money for youth crisis support services.

“We have tried everything we can to maintain our current funding sources for programs and in some cases we have been successful. But there is not growth in the available pool of money and competition for funding has vastly increased,” said Ms McLennan.

“Our priority is to keep services open and the maintain service levels, but it means we have to make some very difficult decisions along the way. We are planning for the long term to ensure that local services remain accessible to local people,” she concluded.

Ms Margaret McDonald has been appointed CEO of Cobaw Community Health from Ms McLennan’s departure on 27 June.

Cobaw and Bendigo Community Health in negotiations

The Boards of Bendigo Community Health Services and Cobaw Community Health are pleased to announce that they have entered into negotiations to merge the two organisations.

Bendigo Community Health Services and Cobaw Community Health are not-for-profit organisations offering a range of primary and community health services, many of which are free or have minimal cost making them available to those in need.

“We are exploring the possibility of joining together the two organisations as a way of ensuring our services can adapt to the changing needs of our communities, said Anne McLennan, CEO Cobaw Community Health. “We see this is a moment of great opportunity – for our services and programs, and our staff.”

“Our shared priority is to ensure that the best interests and outcomes for our communities are central to any final decision. Our organisations have worked together on a range of initiatives over the recent years and we know that we share similar values, ways of working and commitment to local, place-based responses to community need. We believe we can achieve even more by formally coming together and our boards have commenced due diligence processes to inform future recommendations.” Kim Sykes, CEO Bendigo Community Health Services.

Both CEO’s noted that discussions will continue with the best interests and needs of the communities the main priority. Decisions made, including the final decision will be motivated by that priority, as well as consideration of a range of other matters.

Staff, stakeholders, company members and communities will be kept informed as discussions progress.


Cobaw’s Mollison Place site sold

Cobaw Community Health CEO has confirmed their property in Mollison Place has been sold and will settle in late June. Mollison Place has been home to the Kyneton Men’s Shed for more than 10 years.

“The terrific thing about the sale is that the new owner is happy to lease back the Men’s Shed to Cobaw,” said CEO Anne McLennan. “This means the future of the Shed in the site is secure for at least another three years, being the term of the lease.”

Mid last year Cobaw decided to put the 9,055 m2 industrially zoned property on the market. Apart from the Men’s Shed the remainder of the site was no longer suitable for the services Cobaw operates. One of the other buildings on site had been home to Cobaw’s Social Support and Respite program. However during 2013 and early 2014 these programs were progressively transferred to community settings in line with current Government policy directions that promote active aging and community involvement. In addition essential works required to meet legislative requirements to the building at Mollison Place used by the Social Support programs were cost prohibitive.

“Cobaw now aims to promote even more participation in the Men’s Shed,” said Anne. “The Shed offers a supportive place for men to go to develop friendships, learn new skills and generally enjoy time with others.”