Media

03

Jun

2024

Mental health service boost in Coffs Harbour with opening of Medicare Mental Health Centre

Communities in and around Coffs Harbour will soon benefit from increased mental health support with the opening of a Medicare Mental Health Centre in late June.

Healthy North Coast, who delivers the North Coast Primary Health Network program on behalf of the Australian Government, today announced the successful service provider that will run the new Medicare Mental Health Centre.

Following a competitive tender process, Healthy North Coast has contracted local not-for-profit organisation Open Minds as the centre provider, bringing proven expertise in operating similar centres in our region.

Monika Wheeler, CEO of Healthy North Coast, said, “It is estimated that 43% of Australians will experience mental health distress at some point in their lives. It is vitally important we have a range of mental health services that are easily accessed in times of need.”

“Coffs Harbour residents will be able to visit the new Medicare Mental Health Centre via walk-in, with no appointments or referrals necessary, and free of charge.

“Our Lismore Centre, also run by Open Minds, opened in 2022 and has delivered over 9,000 sessions and supported more than 1,000 people. We’re confident that the Coffs Harbour Centre will be a welcome addition for residents looking for a tailored experience and connection to the right support for them and their circumstances, which are different for everyone,” said Ms Wheeler.

Rik Barker, General Manager of Integrated Mental Health Services (NSW) at Open Minds, also welcomed the announcement:

“We look forward to opening the doors in Coffs and delivering a quality mental health service, improving the wellbeing of people on the Mid North Coast.”

The Coffs Harbour Medicare Mental Health Centre will be staffed by mental health and allied health professionals who will be available for visitors, depending on their level of need. There will also be access to a Social and Emotional Wellbeing Worker for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients, delivered in partnership with Galambila Aboriginal Health Service.

“The new Centre announcement has been met with enthusiasm by local communities who will benefit from the free, drop-in style model of care. Co-located with the Coffs Harbour Neighbourhood Centre, it will be a welcoming space for people to visit,” explained Ms Wheeler.

“If you’re not able to visit the Centre in person, I would encourage people to call the free Head to Health 1800 595 212 service. Specialist staff can help assess your needs and connect you to care over the phone. This is also a great option for people seeking support, and I encourage our communities to spread the word about these much-needed support services.”

Additional info:

  • The Coffs Harbour Medicare Mental Health Centre will be co-located with the Coffs Harbour Neighbourhood Centre, located in Block B of the Community Village, 22 Earl Street, Coffs Harbour.
  • Initial hours of operation will be 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday, with provisions in place for targeted/appointment-based services for up to 4 hours on Saturdays.
  • Medicare Mental Health Centres are not crisis or emergency services. For urgent support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Mental Health Access Line on 1800 011 511. If you need immediate help or are at risk of harm to yourself or others, call 000 now.

 

About Open Minds:
With over 100 years of experience, Open Minds works to enhance mental health and wellbeing by delivering a range of tailored options and core supports focused on the individual needs of each person. They believe that every individual deserves personalised support in the areas of mental health and disability.

 

About Healthy North Coast:
Healthy North Coast is an independent, not-for-profit organisation proudly delivering the PHN program in North Coast NSW. They are committed to improving the health of their communities through quality primary health care. The PHN program is an Australian Government initiative.

21

May

2024

Nursing on the North Coast: partnering for excellence in primary care
This week, Healthy North Coast is building the capability of primary care nurses on the North Coast by launching two programs that aim to support, develop and upskill them in their delivery of quality health care to their communities. Healthy North Coast is partnering with the Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA) in co-sponsoring 13 practices from across the region in the ‘Building Nurse Capacity’ program, and eight nurses in the ‘Transition to Practice Program ’, after a successful Expression of Interest process. The Building Nurse Capacity program will support nurses to develop nurse-delivered, team-based models of care – also known as nurse clinics. The Transition to Practice Program will support nurses who have transitioned to primary health care and provide them with additional assistance, including mentoring, exclusive education tools and resources, and networking opportunities. Monika Wheeler, CEO of Healthy North Coast, highlighted the importance of supporting nurses in primary care:
“We have so many amazing nurses in our region doing wonderful work in their practices and communities. These sponsorships are helping to build nurse capacity and empower our nurse workforce to work to their top of scope – putting all their knowledge and skills learned to work when they are delivering care to patients. This will ultimately support better health outcomes for North Coast residents. “Nurse-led clinics will also relieve some of the pressure on our GP workforce which has experienced significant strain in recent years. “I’m thrilled we can continue to build upon work that we’ve been doing in supporting the health workforce on the North Coast, especially after a rough few years, such as the Workforce Support and Wellbeing grants that we’ve recently offered,” added Ms Wheeler.
Karen Booth, President of APNA, who was in Lismore on Tuesday for the program launch, added her enthusiasm in seeing the sponsorships underway on the North Coast:
“We know that building capacity in the primary health care nursing workforce has great flow on effects. Strengthening skills and supporting nurses, especially in nurse-led care helps to not only support the GP teams that they work with, but also shares the workload and increases access to care for our communities. “We also know that the APNA Transition to Professional Program supports nurses to build their career path and aides recruitment and retention of nurses new to primary health care. APNA is delighted to be partnering with Healthy North Coast on these great new initiatives.”
Healthy North Coast and APNA are equally co-sponsoring the successful 2024 TPP students with $8,500 each, with no out-of-pocket expenses for the students, while participating practices in the BNC program will receive $7,500 each in a similar co-sponsorship arrangement. Overall, the total funding is $331,000 split equally between APNA and Healthy North Coast contributing $165,500 each. New Transition to Practice Program students and Building Nurse Capacity programs will be based throughout the Mid North Coast and Northern NSW regions, and focus on a range of key priority health areas such as cardiovascular health, diabetes, cancer control, mental health and injury prevention and control. Brooke Fresen, Registered Nurse at The Lismore Clinic and a TPP student, described the benefit of participating in the program:
“As a new graduate Registered Nurse I was looking to expand my knowledge and increase my confidence in my new role. I heard about the Transition to Practice Program through Healthy North Coast. The application process was super simple and quick. I have now started the program and I am finding it very helpful in cementing my knowledge. The APNA team running the program have been easy to contact and helpful with any questions I have had.”
For more information on the TPP and BNC programs, head to APNA’s website.
Partnering for excellence in primary care
Building the capacity of primary care nurses on the North Coast.
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13

May

2024

Celebrating National Palliative Care Week on the North Coast

“Often there is a stigma around palliative care because of the perceived associations with death. But it doesn’t have to be a scary topic. The sooner we start having these conversations openly and early with our loved ones, the more empowered people will be to make informed decisions and receive the support they need,” said Ms Wheeler.

“In the end…what matters most to you?

“The Community Conversations that we’re running this week are a wonderful opportunity for people to learn more, in a friendly and comfortable environment, about the services and community supports available for ageing, loss, dying and grief.”

Central to quality palliative care on the North Coast is the ‘Greater Choice at Home’ Palliative Care Program, developed by Healthy North Coast in partnership with a range of stakeholders, which aims to enhance the provision of supportive palliative and end-of-life care for people in our region.

Dr Andy Williams, GP and Medical Educator at Healthy North Coast, spoke of National Palliative Care Week being a great opportunity to celebrate the community of local health practitioners who provide care in this area:

“It’s all about celebrating people at the heart of the palliative care workforce. This gives us a great opportunity to provide a deeper understanding of what palliative care is, as well as have some conversations about navigating care in practice,” explained Dr Williams.

“We invite anyone who works in palliative care, or ANY healthcare or residential aged care professional wanting a better understanding of the topic, to join us for a webinar introducing National Palliative Care Week on the North Coast of NSW."

During the week, Healthy North Coast will be hosting a series of ‘Community Conversations in collaboration with Palliative Care NSW and both the Mid North Coast and Northern NSW Local Health District palliative care teams. Local palliative care experts will provide information and resources to help us all think about what’s important to live a full and comfortable life, right to the very end. Topics covered will include navigating end-of-life matters, dying as being a normal part of life, myth-busting, and advance care planning.

These sessions are a safe and friendly space to have the conversation, learn from others, and ask questions about the decisions that matter most to you and your loved ones. Refreshments and free resources are provided.

  • South Tweed, Monday 20 May, 9-11am
  • Yamba, Monday 20 May, 2-4pm
  • Bellingen, Tuesday 21 May, 9-11am
  • Port Macquarie, Tuesday 21 May, 2-4pm

There will also be an ‘Introduction to National Palliative Care Week on the North Coast of NSW’ webinar primarily aimed at health workers, but also open to community members, who would like to know more about how to best navigate end-of-life journeys. Kirsty Blades, CEO of Palliative Care NSW, will be a guest speaker talking about myth-busting palliative care within the community.

For more information on palliative care, visit Healthy North Coast’s website.

08

Apr

2024

North Coast residents urged to boost their immunity by getting their flu vaccination

Healthy North Coast is reminding residents across our region to book in for a flu shot this month, to ensure they boost their immunity leading into the winter flu season.

Whilst flu can circulate at any time, it’s more likely to happen in the colder months of the year, between April and September.

A yearly flu shot is recommended for everyone aged six months and over, and the vaccine can often be given with other vaccines, including COVID-19.

In 2020 and 2021 there were historically low levels of flu across the North Coast as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, however in 2022 and 2023 there was a resurgence due to the reopening of international borders, with cases peaking in June each year. In June 2023, there were around 1,800 notifications of influenza (all strains) in Northern NSW and Mid North Coast local health districts.

Healthy North Coast CEO Monika Wheeler is urging the community to think now about their options for receiving a flu shot:

“Last year, many in our community left it too late, with particularly high numbers of residents suffering from influenza due to the early start to the winter flu season,” Ms Wheeler explained.

“The highest level of protection happens in the first 3 to 4 months following vaccination which is why it is so important to receive a flu shot now.”

“We are urging North Coast residents to ensure they book in for a flu shot with their GP, local pharmacy, health professional or Aboriginal Medical Service as soon as possible,” Ms Wheeler added.

Local GP, Dr Debra King, emphasised the importance of keeping up to date with vaccinations:

“Not only does getting vaccinated against influenza protect you from the debilitating effects of the flu, it also plays a crucial role in keeping our hospitals and health services from becoming overwhelmed.

“Vaccination is a simple yet powerful tool in safeguarding our communities’ health and preventing unnecessary hospitalisations.”

FREE flu vaccines are available for those considered to be at higher risk of severe illness from influenza including:

  • children six months to under five years
  • people 65 and over
  • Aboriginal people from six months of age
  • pregnant women
  • those with serious health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, immune disorders, obesity, severe asthma, kidney, heart, lung or liver disease.

There are some simple precautions you can take to minimise the risk of catching the flu and passing it on including:

  • staying at home if you are sick and avoiding close contact with other people
  • wearing a mask in indoor spaces if you are unable to physically distance
  • sneezing into your elbow instead of your hands
  • washing your hands thoroughly and often.

For further advice on how to protect yourself and loved ones this flu this season visit health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/Influenza.

You can also find your nearest vaccination clinic by using the Service Finder at healthdirect.gov.au.

02

Apr

2024

New Community Wellbeing and Resilience funding opens to support natural disaster recovery on the North Coast

Healthy North Coast is proud to announce the third round of the Community Wellbeing and Resilience (CWR) Program, supporting communities on the North Coast in their recovery from the health and wellbeing impacts of natural disasters and to build their capacity to respond to future events.  

Not-for-profit community organisations can apply for $100,000 – $200,000 (excluding GST) per year, for up to two years, to deliver programs for the community that focus on: 

  • Improving community health and wellbeing through practical place-based projects that build social connection and social capital 
  • Strengthening the capacity of volunteer and community organisations to collaboratively respond to a changing climate by building partnerships and linkages between institutions, organisations or groups 
  • Supporting resilience by ensuring communities are equipped with the knowledge, skills and resources to adapt to the health and wellbeing impacts of a changing climate.  

 Building community resilience is fundamental to improving health and wellbeing outcomes in the context of natural disasters and a changing climate. Resilient communities predict and anticipate disasters, respond and recover from the shock and improvise and innovate in response to disasters.¹

Following the Royal Commission into the Victorian bushfires in 2009, it was identified that “Communities that have a large number of informed individuals who work together will be safer and stronger”² – a goal that the CWR Program is similarly aiming for. 

Organisations across the North Coast region (Port Macquarie to Tweed Heads) are encouraged to respond to an open Expression of Interest (EOI) to deliver an activity under the 2024 CWR Program. 

Monika Wheeler, CEO of Healthy North Coast, acknowledged the impact that the CWR Program has had since its inception in 2021: 

“The North Coast of NSW is an identified natural disaster hotspot in Australia. We have experienced the impacts of multiple disasters in recent years, from the bushfires in 2021 to the Northern Rivers floods in 2022. 

“Thanks to the CWR Program, we’ve been able to see the transformative impact of community-led initiatives that support recovery from natural disasters and to build resilience for the ones to come.  

“I’m thrilled that, off the back of some successful past CWR projects, we can continue this program into 2024. I’d encourage all not-for-profits and NGOs in our region to have a think about how they might be able to make use of this funding to deliver impactful resilience and recovery initiatives for their community.” 

Partnerships and trust-building has been embedded into the grant process, otherwise known as participatory grant making (PGM). This innovative approach prioritises community organisations working together to put forward proposals, rather than competing for funds. 

Successful applicants of the EOI round will be invited to participate in collaborative face-to-face facilitated workshops, where there will be opportunity to give and receive feedback on proposals/concepts and for peer evaluation.  

 

The tender is currently open, and will close 5pm Thursday 18 April 2024.  

There will also be an EOI Briefing Session on Wednesday 3 April at 10-11am via Microsoft Teams. If you would like to register, please email [email protected]. 

For more information and to submit an EOI, please visit Healthy North Coast’s website. 

 

Additional info: 

  • The Community Wellbeing and Resilience Program has been able to commission 23 grants since its inception in 2021, with a total value of $5.3 million through Australian Government Department of Health and NSW Government Ministry of Health funding. For a list of some previous grant recipients, and the projects that were delivered, view Healthy North Coast’s website. 
  • A total of $1 million in funding is available for the 2024 CWR Program, through the Primary Health Network Program – an initiative of the Australian Government. 

 

¹Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience, Australian Disaster Resilience Community Recover Handbook, 2018, 36.

²2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, Australia, 2009, 354.

25

Mar

2024

North Coast residents urged to shape future health care by participating in Better Health Survey

Healthy North Coast has this week opened its ‘Better Health’ community survey in a bid to gather valuable insights that will help shape the future of primary health care across Northern NSW and the Mid North Coast.

Every three years, local communities are asked to share their experiences of primary health care and make suggestions for improvement. It’s a chance for people in Northern NSW and the Mid North Coast to have their say on what’s working, what’s not and to identify any gaps in health services.

The feedback gathered in the Better Health survey will be combined with data to form a comprehensive review of the health needs for our region. This is called the North Coast Health Needs Assessment 2025-2028.

“A strong community voice is essential for good health planning and decision making,” said Monika Wheeler, CEO of Healthy North Coast.

“Residents on the North Coast are engaging with primary health care services every day, whether for their own personal health needs, their family, or as a health carer. They have valuable insight into what’s working, what needs improvement, and what might be missing entirely.

“So if you think you’re having to wait too long for an appointment with a GP, or you think getting support for mental health is too confusing, or even if you’re satisfied with the health care in your area, please let us know. By sharing your thoughts and experiences, you really do have the power to reshape health care in your town.”

The previous iteration of the community survey in Healthy North Coast’s 2021 Health Needs Assessment was called Speak Up. From the Speak Up survey, initiatives like the telehealth service North Coast Health Connect and the social support service Healthy Me, Healthy Community in Port Macquarie were born, to address specific local health needs.

“Your feedback helps us prioritise our efforts, ensuring that available funding is directed to the right areas to achieve better health outcomes for all,” added Ms Wheeler.

The Better Health survey is open from Monday 25 March 2024 and will close on Sunday 14 April 2024. It will take residents approximately 10 minutes to complete, with all answers being anonymous and completely confidential.

At the end of the survey, participants can enter a prize draw to win one of twenty $100 cash cards.

Visit Better Health North Coast to find out more and take the survey today.

Local community organisations, health practices, community members and businesses are also encouraged to promote the Better Health survey to their networks. To support this, a are available.

For more information, please contact the project team at [email protected].

08

Mar

2024

Healthy Ageing a key priority for the North Coast

The North Coast region of NSW faces unique challenges and opportunities due to an ageing population.

Currently, 138,000 or 25% of people between Port Macquarie and the Tweed are aged 65 or over. This compares to 16% Australia-wide.

Additionally, 30% of the North Coast population is expected to be over 65 by 2030, and the number of people over 85 will almost double in the next twenty years.

CEO of Healthy North Coast, Monika Wheeler, said that as our population ages, the demand on the healthcare system grows, impacting people being able to easily access the services they need, and placing a strain on healthcare resources.

“People are living longer, but not necessarily healthier. We want to shift the focus to improving health now so that people might live the best life they can irrespective of their age,” said Ms Wheeler.

“Healthy ageing is a journey that begins at birth. As we live longer we need to ensure all our living years have choice, dignity and control.”

To address these ageing challenges, Healthy North Coast has developed a Healthy Ageing Strategy with the vision to help people on the North Coast live well, age well, and have ongoing opportunities to contribute and stay connected to their communities and Country.

Developed in consultation with the community, aged care industry stakeholders, and primary and acute care clinicians, the Strategy focuses on wellness, independence and enablement.

A 54-year-old woman from Coffs Harbour who participated in the social research for the Strategy highlighted:

“I guess it is a daily decision to keep well as much I can.

“For me, that’s a holistic approach, with every part of my life included… keeping mentally well, physically well, spiritually well and emotionally well.

“I think that ageing well has got very much to do with what we do day-to-day, it doesn’t happen by chance, it’s an investment into the future. It starts now, it starts every day.”

The Healthy Ageing Strategy contains a number of key initiatives, many of which are already underway on the North Coast.

These include digital health within residential aged care, the North Coast Care Finders Program, aged care disaster management planning and the Greater Choice at Home Palliative Care program.

Owen Lednor, Clinical Project Consultant at The Shoreline Luxury Retirement Living in Coffs Harbour, enthusiastically welcomed the Healthy Ageing Strategy at a launch event held this week.

“Ensuring our residents have access to the right kind of primary healthcare has been a challenge in the past, but now we’re seeing a lot of enthusiasm and uptake on digital telehealth services,” Mr Lednor explained.

“This new technology allows our residents to avoid unnecessary hospital visits and to get the healthcare they need while remaining comfortable at home.

“It’s great to see a focus on digital health technology in the Healthy Ageing Strategy, so that some of those barriers to healthcare might be removed.”

For more information about the Healthy Ageing Strategy 2023-2027 and its initiatives, including downloadable resources, visit hnc.org.au/healthy-ageing.

 

05

Mar

2024

Workforce Support and Wellbeing Program continues to support disaster-affected health workers on the North Coast

Healthy North Coast is pleased to announce the opening of the second round of the Workforce Support and Wellbeing program which has been made available via Australian Government funding.

The program was initiated in 2022 to support retention of the local primary healthcare workforce after the 2022 Northern Rivers floods.

Flexible grants are available for eligible primary health care organisations and sole practitioners to support a variety of projects that assist in the preparation, response and recovery phases of disaster situations.

Developed in consultation with disaster-affected clinicians, the program is aimed toward retaining and strengthening the local primary care workforce by supporting:

  • Rest and relief for an overloaded workforce
  • Team debriefing and resilience building
  • Individual capacity to be responsive to patient needs.

 

Monika Wheeler, CEO of Healthy North Coast, was thrilled to announce the new round of funding:

“Some of our local communities, including Lismore and towns in the Northern Rivers, are still heavily impacted from flooding and natural disasters,” Ms Wheeler said.

“Recovery takes years, and there is still significant pressure on our local primary health care organisations and workers who are continuing to support their patients doing it tough.

“I am proud that to date no general practices in the Northern Rivers region have closed since the 2022 the floods, even though there were concerns that some would. The resilience of local practice owners, the collegiate support provided between health care professionals and support such as this initiative have all played a role in this incredible result.

“By investing in the wellbeing and preparedness of our primary care workforce, we contribute not only to the resilience of our healthcare system but also to the overall health and of our communities.”

 

Janelle Saffin, Member for Lismore and Parliamentary Secretary for Disaster Recovery, also acknowledged her support of the program:

“We don’t know the full impact of the 2022 disaster on the health and mental health of our community, but we do know it was huge, and that it will impact people in our region for years to come.

“It’s important that we look after our health workforce because they are also part of the community recovering from this disaster. I encourage local practitioners to apply for these grants so they can continue to respond to the particular needs of our community.”

 

The Workforce Support and Wellbeing program was first launched in October 2022 as part of a $2.23 million package from the Australian Government through the Primary Health Network program to assist the flood-affected Northern Rivers workforce, provide temporary business premises and support displaced local primary health care providers. This second round of funding will provide up to $500,000 of support for local practitioners through a number of workforce initiatives.

 

The first round of funding was able to support 1,600+ clinical and frontline staff and 110+ Northern Rivers primary health care organisations.

The feedback from local clinicians has been overwhelmingly positive.

 

Kyle Wood, owner and pharmacist at Southside Chempro in Lismore, explained what the funding meant to the local community:

“Like much of the Lismore community, many of our staff were directly affected by the floods. This program offers relief, rest and assistance to the health workforce in this region, while still enabling our businesses to service the community. It is very welcome and appreciated.”

 

To learn more about the Workforce Support and Wellbeing program and to apply for funding, visit hnc.org.au/workforce-support-and-wellbeing-program.

 

Funding is available until 30 June 2024.

 

 

About Healthy North Coast:

 

Healthy North Coast is an independent, not-for-profit organisation proudly delivering the PHN program on behalf of the Australian Government in North Coast NSW. They are committed to improving the health of their communities through quality primary health care.

 

They have invested over $16 million in Australian Government and NSW Government funding for flood recovery initiatives, including:

  • Resilient Kids program
  • Expansion of Prema House
  • Safe Haven Community and Wellbeing hubs
  • Head to Health program
  • Mental Health and Wellbeing Flood Recovery Navigators
  • Strong Community program
  • Community Wellbeing and Resilience program
  • Workforce Infrastructure grants
  • Workforce Support and Wellbeing program
  • Lismore Primary Health Precinct
  • Building disaster readiness

 

Healthy North Coast is working collaboratively with primary health care professionals, the Local Health Districts and NSW emergency services to prepare for future disasters in our region. When services work together collaboratively communities get the support they need.

15

Feb

2024

Expansion of Mountain Health Hub offers health care to Eastern Dorrigo residents

This week, the Mountain Health Hub at Ulong proudly announces the completion of the new consultation room, marking a significant milestone in its mission to provide essential healthcare services to the residents of Ulong and the Eastern Dorrigo region.

Originally established in April 2021, the Mountain Health Hub has been a vital resource for residents of Ulong and Eastern Dorrigo, offering local access to GP consultations, health checks and crucial support services. The Hub has played a crucial role in addressing healthcare challenges in the area by minimising the need for travel and facilitating early intervention.

Although only 36km from Coffs Harbour, the small village of Ulong is accessible only via one road – Eastern Dorrigo Way – which is often closed due to flooding and damage, leaving it completely isolated.

“This treatment room is the culmination of a 7-year dream to bring health services to our rural mountain communities,” said Carol Cleary, Chair of the Eastern Dorrigo Community Hall Management Committee, owner of Ulong General Store and main driver of the fundraising.

“It would still only be a dream if it wasn’t for the kindness of so many people answering a call and opening their hearts and wallets to allow this to become reality.”

The expansion has been made possible through funding from Healthy North Coast, the NSW Department of Health (secured by Member for Coffs Harbour, Mr Gurmesh Singh), local community donations, and in-kind contributions from tradespeople and suppliers.

The initiative has been coordinated by the Eastern Dorrigo Community Hall Facility Management Committee, with the Hall being a City of Coffs Harbour facility.

Monika Wheeler, CEO of Healthy North Coast, was thrilled to see the extension officially unveiled:

“Supporting access to quality primary health care for regional, remote, and vulnerable communities is a top priority for us.

“Rural and remote communities often face obstacles in accessing health care services, a challenge exacerbated during recent events like the COVID-19 pandemic and the devastating flooding that has affected our region.

“The Mountain Health Hub will not only enhance access to care but also improve patient experiences by providing a familiar and trusted environment for health care delivery.

“Congratulations to everyone who has helped bring this vision to fruition. Ms Cleary, Dr Jay Ruthnam, who provides medical outreach at the clinic, and all of those involved.”

The journey to expand the Mountain Health Hub dates back to early 2017, when efforts were initiated to address the healthcare needs of the Eastern Dorrigo area. Through collaborative efforts and community engagement led by Ms Cleary, the Hub has evolved from providing basic first aid training to offering comprehensive healthcare services, providing a place for GPs, nurses and other health professionals to deliver quality care.

The Mountain Health Hub represents a testament to the power of community-driven initiatives and the importance of accessible health care in rural and remote areas. As it continues to grow and evolve, the Hub will remain a vital community asset, servicing the healthcare needs of the Eastern Dorrigo region.

Additional info:

  • Healthy North Coast has contributed funding of around $25,000 for the Mountain Health Hub, made possible through their supporting access to care for vulnerable populations.
  • Dr Jay Ruthnam, from Northside Health in Coffs Harbour, has been visiting the Mountain Health Hub since April 2021. His monthly visits are always fully booked, with many residents having had previously undiagnosed health issues identified and treated.
  • Allied health services such as Women’s Health, Mission Australia and NSW Health Disaster Recovery nurses have also made regular visits to care for Eastern Dorrigo residents.
  • The high standard of fit-out is thanks to the generous donations of Deidre McInherney-Nash from Your Family Practice in Laurieton, who donated a wealth of equipment, including a vaccine fridge, hydraulic beds, trollies and treatment chairs.
13

Dec

2023

New Medicare Urgent Care Clinic operational in Lismore

**Update** Lismore Medicare Urgent Care Clinic has since updated its hours of operation to 7:30am to 7:30pm, 7 days a week. Refer to their website for more information.


Healthy North Coast has welcomed the Australian Government’s announcement of the Medicare Urgent Care Clinic in Lismore.

The new Medicare Urgent Care Clinic (UCC), located in Goonellabah, is operated by Lismore GP Super Clinic, a general practice with a team of GPs, allied health practitioners and nurses, who has been providing primary healthcare services to Lismore and the Northern Rivers for 16 years.

The new Medicare UCC is run from the same site as Lismore GP Super Clinic, but the service is separate.

With doors having opened to the public on Monday 20 November, the Lismore Medicare UCC is currently operating 7 days a week with extended hours to service the urgent, but not life-threatening, healthcare needs of the community to help reduce pressure on hospitals and emergency departments.

The Clinic is fully bulk billed, with no appointments or referrals necessary.

"The Lismore community has had their fair share of obstacles over the past couple of years.

"The opening of this Medicare Urgent Care Clinic will create another fantastic option for Lismore residents and visitors to access quality primary health care for non-life threatening injuries, while reducing the load on the local emergency department.”

“We are excited and proud to have opened the new Medicare Urgent Care Clinic for the community of Lismore.

“With a legacy of providing exceptional health care to local Goonellabah and Lismore residents spanning 15 years, the establishment of the Lismore Medicare Urgent Care Clinic represents an extension of the dedicated medical services delivered to our community.”

Ms Wheeler also acknowledged the substantial investments and partnership efforts that have been made in recent years to enhance primary care access in Mid North Coast and Northern NSW:

“The new Lismore Medicare UCC is a valuable addition to our existing healthcare services, including local general practices, Aboriginal Medical Services, Head to Health Lismore and initiatives like North Coast Health Connect.”

North Coast Health Connect was launched in May 2023 as a free service to enable North Coast residents to speak with a registered nurse any time of the day or night, and has since supported thousands of locals to receive expert health advice quickly and conveniently.

“It’s all about our community receiving the most suitable, timely level of health care. Our GPs play such an important role in our healthcare system providing comprehensive primary health. We encourage people to prioritise their health through regular visits with their local GPs. Urgent care options like North Coast Health Connect and Medicare Urgent Care Clinics come into play when the health care need is more urgent, or out of hours, and your local GP is not available.

“If anyone is unsure about the right place to go for their care, a free call to North Coast Health Connect will point you in the right direction. The Australian Government has also developed some great resources,” added Ms Wheeler.

  • The Lismore Medicare UCC and North Coast Health Connect are funded by Healthy North Coast through the Australian Government’s PHN Program.
  • Lismore Medicare Urgent Care Clinic is located at 33-35 Rous Rd, Goonellabah NSW 2480.
  • Currently open Monday to Friday 8:00am to 5:00pm, Saturday 8:00am to 2:00pm and Sunday 9:00am to 3:00pm*.
  • Cost is FREE for patients (Medicare bulk-billed).
  • More information on Medicare Urgent Care Clinics can be found at health.gov.au/MedicareUCC.
  • North Coast Health Connect can be reached on 1800 198 888 or via webchat at northcoasthealthconnect.org.au.
24

Nov

2023

Resilient Kids launched to support Northern Rivers children and teens post-floods

A new program – Resilient Kids – has arrived to support the health and wellbeing of Northern Rivers young people aged eight to 18 years in the wake of the 2022 floods.
 
Resilient Kids, funded through a $10 million grant from the Australian Government through the National Emergency Management Agency, will support thousands of Northern Rivers youth and at least 75 schools.
 
Healthy North Coast co-designed the program with children, young people, schools, families, and service providers from across the Northern Rivers.
 
Resilient Kids will be delivered in three streams:

  • Stream 1: Education and skill building through school-based supports
  • Stream 2: Community resilience building delivered from local hubs, with outreach to smaller communities
  • Stream 3: First Nations children and young people initiatives.

 
The not-for-profit organisation Social Futures (in partnership with The Family Centre and Human Nature Therapy) will deliver Streams 1 and 2.
 
Federal Minister for Emergency Management, Murray Watt, said the Resilient Kids program was a great initiative that aims to address an important aspect of disaster recovery.
 
“The Albanese Government is very pleased to support Healthy North Coast, which will benefit young people right across the Northern Rivers,” Minister Watt said.
 
“The 2022 floods were traumatic for the whole community and the recovery process can bring a lot of change for families, so looking after mental health is so important.
 
“This program has been developed by locals, for locals, to help families access long-term, positive programs that addresses the mental wellness challenges from disasters and build resilience.”
 

 
Healthy North Coast CEO, Monika Wheeler said to design Resilient Kids, Healthy North Coast looked at information collected in the Resilience Survey from 6,611 children and young people.
 
“The survey results told us that physical wellbeing, mental wellbeing, personal safety and reducing risks, a sense of social identity and engagement with learning were all extremely important to young people,” Ms Wheeler said.
 
“We are delighted the Resilient Kids program is now commencing and I would like to acknowledge the funding received from the Australian Government’s National Emergency Management Agency.
 
“Our North Coast communities have been through many challenging experiences in recent years, and we will continue to support and fund a range of services that enable better mental health and wellbeing outcomes for our young people.”
 
Social Futures CEO, Tony Davies, said Social Futures has been part of the recovery from the beginning, and was well aware that many young people in the region were still doing it tough.”
 
“It is vital that the right care services are in place to support young people to build their resilience,” Mr Davies said.
 
“Even adults are struggling to navigate this new world and that’s why I’m so proud Social Futures is part of the Resilient Kids program. It will deliver much-needed supports to the children and teens of the Northern Rivers.
 
“No one will deny that the past few years have been extraordinary, and Social Futures is delighted to partner with Healthy North Coast, The Family Centre and Human Nature Therapy to ensure that Resilient Kids makes a real difference to the lives of young people in the Northern Rivers.”
 

 
More information about Resilient Kids
 
The Family Centre is delivering Stream 1 which focusses on school-based programs including disaster resilience and social and emotional wellbeing education, plus parent and carer support.
 
Six Wellbeing Hubs, led by Social Futures, around the Northern Rivers are delivering Stream 2, with outreach opportunities also available in smaller communities.
 
These hubs have been set up to provide services and activities including counselling services for children, young people and their families, peer-to-peer supports, group supports, and help will be provided to connect young people with other mental health and wellbeing services.
 
Funding will also be made available for small-scale place-based activities that build connection and wellbeing and respond to emerging needs across the region.
 
Collaboration with Northern Rivers Aboriginal Medical Services is also underway to prioritise the activities or services that are expected to be delivered through Stream 3.
 
Beacon Strategies has also been commissioned by Healthy North Coast to work with Resilient Kids providers to understand the impact of the program on participants, and to build upon emerging outcomes and achievements.
 
More information about the Resilient Kids program can be found at
socialfutures.org.au/resilient-kids and at hnc.org.au/resilient-kids

01

Nov

2023

Improving healthcare access: new Medicare Urgent Care Clinic to open in Coffs Harbour

In celebration of more convenient and efficient healthcare access for the region, Healthy North Coast has welcomed this week’s Australian Government announcement of the country’s newest Medicare Urgent Care Clinic in Coffs Harbour.

The new Medicare Urgent Care Clinic (UCC), conveniently located in the Specialist Medical Centre next to Coffs Harbour Hospital, will be operated by CHC Medical – a general practice who has been providing primary health care services to the Coffs Harbour community for over 10 years.

With doors opening later this month, the Coffs Harbour Medicare UCC will operate from 8 am to 8 pm, seven days a week, with no appointments or referrals necessary. It is designed for urgent but not life-threatening conditions, in a bid to help reduce pressure on hospitals and emergency departments.

Monika Wheeler, CEO of Healthy North Coast, welcomed the announcement:

“This marks a significant milestone in further improving primary care access for Coffs Harbour residents and visitors,” said Ms Wheeler.

“It’s important to create alternatives to hospital emergency departments in rural and regional areas like Coffs Harbour, where accessing timely primary care, such as GP appointments, has often been challenging.”

CHC Medical also added their welcome of the announcement:

“We are excited and proud to be opening the new Medicare Urgent Care Clinic for the community of Coffs Harbour,” said Samuel Ledger, Mena Abdel Messih and Tara Welsh, Directors of CHC Medical, in a joint statement.

“With a legacy of expert healthcare spanning over 10 years, this represents a natural extension of our dedication to providing top-quality medical services to our community. Our team of GPs, nurses and health professionals are ready, as always, to attend to the urgent care needs of Coffs.”

Ms Wheeler also acknowledged the substantial investments and partnership efforts that have been made in recent years to enhance primary care access in Mid North Coast and Northern NSW:

“The new Coffs Harbour Medicare Urgent Care Clinic will be a valuable addition to our existing healthcare services, including local general practices, Aboriginal Medical Services, and initiatives like North Coast Health Connect.”

North Coast Health Connect was launched in May 2023 as a free service to enable North Coast residents to speak with a registered nurse any time of the day or night, and has since supported thousands of locals to receive expert health advice quickly and conveniently.

“It’s all about our community receiving the most suitable, timely level of healthcare. Our GPs play such an important role in our healthcare system, and we absolutely encourage people to prioritise their health through regular visits with their local GPs for their general care, but the urgent care options like North Coast Health Connect and Medicare Urgent Care Clinics will play an important role when the healthcare need is more urgent.

“In turn, this will reduce the pressure on our hospital emergency departments and enable them to focus on the most serious, life-threatening conditions.

“If anyone is unsure about the right place to go for their care, a free call to North Coast Health Connect will point you in the right direction. The Australian Government has also developed some great resources,” added Ms Wheeler.

 

The Coffs Harbour Medicare Urgent Care Clinic is commissioned by Healthy North Coast through a grant provided by the Australian Government.

Coffs Harbour Medicare Urgent Care Clinic will be located at the Specialist Medical Centre, Level 1, Suite 105-107, 343-345 Pacific Highway Coffs Harbour (adjacent to Coffs Harbour Hospital).

More information on Medicare Urgent Care Clinics can be found at health.gov.au/MedicareUCC.

North Coast Health Connect can be reached on 1800 198 888 or via webchat at northcoasthealthconnect.org.au.

22

Sep

2023

Landmark Agreement to Focus on Aboriginal Health Outcomes via a new Partnership in Primary Health Care
Logos for the Healthy North Coast Aboriginal Partnership

Six North Coast Aboriginal Medical Services in partnership with Healthy North Coast today launched a landmark agreement that will place an increased focus on improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the North Coast.

The partnership seeks to progress the ‘National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2021-2031’ vision whereby “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people enjoy long, healthy lives that are centred in culture, with access to services that are prevention-focused, culturally safe and responsive, equitable and free of racism.”

“This partnership has been years in the making, and it is exciting to see it come to fruition through aligning the vision of seven passionate and committed primary health care organisations.”

“This is an important step in advancing the work we all do in delivering high-quality local health services for Aboriginal people in our region.”

“By working in partnership, we are more effective and efficient – directing precious resources where they are most needed.”

“The partnership will see us build and leverage regional capacity to improve health services for all Aboriginal communities across the North Coast.”

“As primary health care organisations, we have a shared responsibility to deliver better outcomes for our Aboriginal communities and address the disparities that currently exist.”

“It is important that responsibility for improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is shared across the health system. That’s what this Partnership will help to foster.”

“Better Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health outcomes will be achieved when Aboriginal people control them. This agreement confirms Healthy North Coast’s commitment to proactively seeking, and listening to, the advice and guidance of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations when it comes to commissioning in Aboriginal health. We are excited about this collaborative model and the opportunities it presents.”

Examples of work that will be supported as part of the Agreement include the development of:

  • A joint North Coast Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Needs Assessment – inclusive of data analysis, community consultation and shared priority setting (by December 2024).
  • An Aboriginal-specific Mental Health, Suicide Prevention and Alcohol and Other Drug community-controlled service model (by June 2024).
  • A collaborative Integrated Team Care service model (by June 2024).
  • A Healthy North Coast preferred provider model (complete).

The Partnership complements existing arrangements already in place with the Mid North Coast (Mid North Coast Accord) and Northern NSW Local Health Districts (Northern NSW Aboriginal Partnerships Agreement) to support integrated care across the primary health and acute care system.

21

Sep

2023

North Coast NSW launches integrated mental health support 

In a first for the region, the largest primary mental health service in the North Coast of New South Wales officially launched this week.

EACH will lead a groundbreaking partnership to deliver the Healthy Hub Connect service which will be made up of multidisciplinary teams of mental health workers, including psychologists, mental health nurses, social workers, and peer workers.

This service will offer free or low-cost mental health support for individuals facing moderate to severe mental health challenges with extended support to families and carers in an area covering Port Macquarie right up to the Queensland boarder.

EACH CEO Natalie Sullivan emphasised that affordable and accessible support are key to keeping people well and out of hospital,

“Anyone in need, particularly people with complex and co-occurring conditions, now have ready access to assistance. The services will play a crucial role in easing pressure on the health system by allowing people to get local care in their community.”

Healthy Hub Connect is a collaborative effort between EACH, The Buttery, Ability Options, Health Voyage, and Wellways, and is funded by Healthy North Coast through the North Coast PHN program which is an initiative of the Australian Government.

Collaboration is pivotal in ensuring mental health services are readily available across this growing region.

“Partnerships are at the heart of this service, and they are enabling us to magnify our capacity, have measurable impact and create lasting change in the communities we support. “

Healthy North Coast CEO, Monika Wheeler said the new Healthy Hub Connect is a great example of working in partnership with industry professionals and the community to transform the way mental health services are delivered across the region.

“This model of care will offer free and low-cost mental health support so that in a time of need children, young people and adults can receive the right care, in the right place, at the right time.”

To find out, please email [email protected].

Media contact: Andy Roberts 0448 000 486 | [email protected]

17

Aug

2023

Statement of support on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament

The Voice to Parliament is a recognition by the Australian Government that First Nations’ voices must be consulted about proposed laws and policies that affect them.   

In late 2023 a Referendum will be held in which Australians will vote on whether to establish an independent and permanent advisory body that would give advice to the Australian Parliament and Government on matters that affect the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This includes issues such as education, health, housing, justice, and other policies with a practical impact on First Nations people.  

Healthy North Coast supports the Voice to Parliament, acknowledging the need for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to have greater involvement in decision making which directly impacts their lives.  

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we live and work, comprising in this region the lands of the Birpai, Bundjalung, Dunghutti, Githabul, Gumbaynggirr and Yaegl peoples.  

We are committed to walking beside the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and community-controlled health organisations in advocating for social change that achieves equity and better health and wellbeing.  

We also recognise the continuing rich culture and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, in the face of colonisation, dispossession, and discrimination.   

The impacts of this trauma have led to unacceptable inequalities and health disparities that must be addressed.  

Healthy North Coast Board Chair, Dr Adrian Gilliland said, “Building a better future together requires us to engage with, empower and walk alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and organisations within our North Coast communities”.  

“Our commitment to closing the gap and reducing health inequity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities is paramount to all our objectives and outcomes. 

“Our support of the Voice to Parliament is a demonstration of this commitment, and we will continue to advocate for positive change.” 

CEO, Monika Wheeler said, “Healthy North Coast is on a continuing journey of learning and understanding.” 

“We are deeply committed to the implementation of our Reconciliation Action Plan and working in partnership with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services to achieve better health outcomes for First Nations peoples.” 

We respect there are differing views and encourage our community to access reliable information on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament at voice.gov.au, which will empower us all to make our own informed decision.  

08

Aug

2023

North Coast Parents encouraged to vaccinate children against the flu

Parents are being reminded of the effectiveness of flu vaccination, following a recent rise in influenza rates and hospitalisations among children and teenagers.

NSW Health data indicates that child emergency department presentations due to influenza increased by 37% in the first week of July, with a 30% increase in hospital admissions.

In NSW, 25.3% of children aged 6 months to 5 years, and 14.5 % of 5–15-year-olds have been vaccinated against the flu. These figures are lower for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children with 16.7% of children aged 6 months to 5 years, and 12.3% of 5–15-year-olds vaccinated.

Healthy North Coast CEO, Monika Wheeler said that even though we are well into Winter, it’s never too late to ensure our children’s immunity is boosted.

“A yearly flu shot is recommended for everyone aged 6 months and over, and this vaccine can often be given with other vaccines, including COVID-19.” Ms Wheeler explained.

“With our children active at school and day-care, the chance of them contracting the flu is heightened, and no parent wants to face the very real risk of a seriously ill child.

“We are encouraging all parents to speak with their doctor, pharmacist or Aboriginal Medical Service about booking a flu shot today,” said Ms Wheeler.

FREE flu vaccines are available for those considered to be at higher risk of severe illness from influenza including:

  • children six months to under five years
  • people 65 and over
  • Aboriginal people from six months of age
  • pregnant women
  • those with serious health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, immune disorders, obesity, severe asthma, kidney, heart, lung or liver disease

If your child has flu symptoms such as a fever, cough, noisy breathing, sore throat, runny nose, muscle aches, fatigue, nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea, keep them at home and avoid close contact with other people to prevent others from also becoming sick.

Keep your child at home until they are well, and their fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine, like paracetamol. If your child has a confirmed diagnosis of influenza from a doctor, your child may remain infectious for at least 10 days.

This is especially important if you visit people who are at higher risk of severe illness from influenza – including pregnant women, young infants, older people or people in hospital or residential care facilities.

The community can also access a handy Vaccine Clinic Finder tool.

17

May

2023

New social prescribing program is just what the doctor ordered

A ground‐breaking new program combatting loneliness and social isolation in the Port Macquarie‐Hastings region is just what the doctor ordered.

Funded by Healthy North Coast, a local not‐for‐profit organisation delivering the Australian Government’s Primary Health Network Program, the ‘Healthy Me Healthy Community’ initiative aims to support, encourage, and empower locals to rediscover their passions and find new social outlets to boost their mental health and wellbeing.

Healthy North Coast Chief Executive, Monika Wheeler, said the free 15‐week program was based on a concept called ‘social prescribing’ – a global movement which takes a non‐clinical approach to combatting the mental and physical effects of loneliness and poor ‘social health’, two factors which can be a major contributor to chronic illness.

‘Increasing social opportunities and purposeful activities is more important than ever after COVID‐19 measures, such as lockdowns and physical isolation, which impacted people’s ability to connect with others, and in turn, their overall wellbeing,’ Ms Wheeler said.

Feros Care is delivering the pilot program, set to roll out over the next 12 months with a goal of supporting 300 participants with tailored social and group activities until June 2024.

Feros Care Head of Fundraising and Supporter Relationships, Jo Winwood, said the program takes a holistic view of people’s health and wellbeing by offering meaningful ‘social prescriptions’ like volunteering, social groups, arts, cultural events and exercise to help people feel connected and a sense of belonging.

‘We address the root cause of ill health caused by poor social connections, rather than treating the symptoms,’ Ms Winwood said.

‘This helps people understand their individual social needs and connect with the things that matter to them, to support their return to good health,’ she said.

Recently, Mayo Private Hospital referred Jeff, 70, to the Healthy Me Healthy Community program to help him improve his social connections and give him more purpose during retirement.

During time as an electrical trades TAFE teacher, Jeff gained extensive experience teaching woodwork. The ‘Healthy Me Healthy Community’ Wellbeing Coach secured a volunteer position for Jeff in the local Community College’s workshop.

‘Spending time with people energises me and the program has given me a purpose. I’m doing 2 days a week, which is enough for the time being. It’s great that I can dictate my own times and work the hours that suit me best,’ said Jeff.

‘It’s very early days of course, but I’m feeling very positive, and the world is my oyster,’ Jeff said.

Ms Wheeler urged community members seeking to boost their mental health and wellbeing to speak with their GP or visit feroscare.com.au/healthyme to learn more about the Healthy Me Healthy Community Program.

‘The program is also recruiting for Community Connector Volunteers and Community Ambassadors to support and guide participants. Sometimes, that one‐to‐one support makes all the difference,’ said Ms Wheeler.

To sign up as a participant or volunteer, head to feroscare.com.au/healthyme or call 1300 987 215 for more information.

15

May

2023

Community feedback leads to redesign of local mental health service model

North Coast community members seeking mental health, drug and alcohol, or psychosocial support will soon have access to improved services, developed with community input.

Healthy North Coast, a local not-for-profit organisation responsible for improving access to primary care health services, recently announced changes to the services they fund as part of a mental health reform project that began in 2022.

The project was undertaken in response to the National Mental Health Commission’s Review of Mental Health Programs and Services, with a key element being consultation with local partners, community members, and health care providers to design alternative ways of delivering care to drive better service experience and health outcomes. Face-to-face workshops were held across the region, along with online solution design workshops and focus groups with GPs, community members, and people with lived experience.

Healthy North Coast Chief Executive Monika Wheeler noted that community input was critical in evaluating current service models and identifying where the biggest improvements could be made.

‘Feedback highlighted the current complexity of knowing where to go or who to call to seek help for specific needs, and the differing levels of ease of access and service quality in our region,’ she said.

‘People also reported the experience of needing to go to lots of different places to get help for different needs, which is very difficult for people seeking support.’

New ‘hub and spoke’ network model ensures access to consistent, comprehensive care for all.

As a result of the consultation and co-design process, Healthy North Coast has awarded funding contracts for three programs that will work collaboratively to offer joined-up services: the Primary Mental Health Program (awarded to EACH as part of a consortium with Chess Connect, Health Voyage, The Buttery, and Wellways), the Drug and Alcohol Treatment Program (awarded to The Buttery), and the Psychosocial Support Program (awarded to Mission Australia). These programs will be delivered through what is known as a ‘hub and spoke’ model.

The ‘hub and spoke’ model in this context refers to a network of service locations across the region, with every North Coast Local Government Area getting either a ‘hub’ or a ‘spoke’. The ‘hub’ is a fixed site with multidisciplinary teams offering care, while the ‘spoke’ is smaller in size and more flexible but still offers access to multiple care teams and the same support pathways.

‘The new model will help us to deliver the consistent care experience that our community has asked for. It is a ‘no-wrong-door’ approach that will help to change the way we provide wraparound mental health and related support services. With service options now coming together as a collective offer, people will know where to turn to even when they need help across a range of needs.’

This new service model will start from July 1 and will be accessed by visiting one of the locations, or by firstly phoning the existing Head to Health 1800 595 212 phone line.

Head to Health operates Monday to Friday, 8:30am-5:00pm. It provides a central point to connect people to services and offers support, advice and digital information resources.

Head to Health is not a crisis service. For immediate support, call 000 or:

11

May

2023

North Coast Health Connect – a new front door to local healthcare for Northern NSW

Northern NSW residents are set to benefit from a free new service that aims to improve access to local healthcare.

North Coast Health Connect, launched today for 29 postcodes across Northern NSW, offers a free 1800 phone number or live web chat for residents to speak with a registered nurse any time of the day or night, including public holidays.

Funded by Healthy North Coast through the North Coast PHN program and delivered by Amplar Health, the service ensures urgent health concerns can be assessed quickly and confidentially by a trusted health professional. If needed, residents can be connected with a local general practice, community pharmacist or a virtual care appointment.

Healthy North Coast’s Chief Executive Monika Wheeler said the service opens a new front door to local health care, including urgent care, for those unsure about the next step, helping to ease pressure on hospital resources.

‘Having launched to Port Macquarie, Kempsey and Coffs Harbour residents over the past five  months, the service has already supported thousands of locals to receive health advice quickly wherever they are and in a way that suits them,’ said Ms Wheeler.

‘We understand when there is a health urgency it’s important to get advice quickly no matter the time of day. North Coast Health Connect nurses will assess your symptoms and provide on-the-spot advice.

‘Most people don’t want to go to a hospital emergency department if they can avoid it, but it can be hard to get a GP appointment in some areas. Medical issues also often strike after hours when local services are closed.

‘North Coast Health Connect offers an alternative, with nurses on-call around the clock, ready to listen to your health concerns and connect you to the right level of care at the right time, including bookings with a local GP or pharmacist,’ said Ms Wheeler.

Ms Wheeler said the need to see a GP face-to-face for some health concerns will never change and participating local general practices have made appointments available specifically for users of the North Coast Health Connect service.  The service is also strongly supported by the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA), with local pharmacists signed up to make consultations available.

Amplar Health Chief Executive Officer Dr Andrew Wilson said the Amplar team is thrilled to now be delivering the North Coast Health Connect service to all Northern NSW residents, as improving primary care access is a key element to ensuring the sustainability of healthcare in Australia.

‘Our digital and clinical expertise will ensure the service delivers increased access, choice and control to the local Northern NSW community,’ Dr Wilson said.

Northern NSW Local Health District Acting Chief Executive, Lynne Weir, supported the service as an additional avenue for residents to receive expert medical advice and care outside of the hospital setting.

‘This service is a welcome addition to the range of healthcare options for people in our region, and will help keep our emergency departments for emergencies,’ Ms Weir said.

Pharmaceutical Society of Australia National President Dr Fei Sim applauded Healthy North Coast for their innovation in a health system under increasing stress.

‘With the Australian health system under enormous pressure, there is an important role for pharmacists to play in supporting patients with non-urgent health care needs,’ Dr Sim said.

‘Services like North Coast Health Connect that connect patients with an appropriate healthcare profession – whether it be a GP, a pharmacist, or another health professional – are vital to ensuring our health system efficiently utilises all resources,’ said Dr Sim.

Ms Wheeler said North Coast Health Connect delivers on what the North Coast community asked for – being able to speak to a health expert for free over a convenient and confidential 24/7 channel with connections to face-to-face local health care.

‘We are excited to see all Northern NSW residents have access to this service which has already supported many in Port Macquarie, Kempsey and Coffs Harbour. We encourage you to speak with a North Coast Health Connect nurse on 1800 198 888 or live chat at northcoasthealthconnect.org.au next time you have an urgent health issue,’ said Ms Wheeler.

North Coast Health Connect will also be evaluated by world-leading medical research centre, The George Institute for Global Health, over the next five years.

To find out more about North Coast Health Connect, visit northcoasthealthconnect.org.au

Healthy North Coast delivers the North Coast Primary Health Network program on behalf of the Australian Government. Amplar Health is a business of Medibank Health Solutions Pty Limited (ABN 99 078 934 791).

03

May

2023

Fighting flu starts with you: North Coast residents urged to boost immunity this season

Healthy North Coast is reminding communities across our region to book a flu shot before winter and the traditional flu season.

Healthy North Coast Chief Executive, Monika Wheeler, said there was a resurgence of influenza in 2022 due to the reopening of international borders, and the same risk was likely this year.

‘Last year’s flu season started in late April and peaked around June, a couple of months earlier than usual,’ said Ms Wheeler.

‘That’s why we are launching some new resources today urging North Coast residents to get in and book a vaccination appointment with their GP or local pharmacy as soon as possible.’

Those considered to be at higher risk of severe illness from influenza are eligible for free annual flu vaccination under the National Immunisation Program.

This includes:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from six months of age
  • children from six months to under five years of age
  • people with serious health conditions (including severe asthma, diabetes, immunocompromising conditions, obesity, kidney, heart, lung or liver disease)
  • pregnant women
  • people aged 65 and over.

The influenza vaccine can often be given with other vaccines, including COVID-19. All adults can get a COVID-19 booster if it’s been six months or longer since their last booster or confirmed infection.

This is particularly recommended for everyone 65 years and over, and everyone 18 years and over with medical comorbidities, disability or complex health needs.

Local GP, Dr Debra King, said that recent NSW Health COVID-19 Surveillance Reports indicate there is still COVID-19 transmission occurring in the community.

‘COVID and influenza together have the potential to put significant strain on our health system, which is something we all want to avoid,’ said Dr King.

As well as vaccination, there are also some simple ways to prevent transmission of the flu virus and COVID-19 including:

  • staying home when sick
  • covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing
  • cleaning your hands regularly with hand sanitiser or soap and running water for 20 seconds
  • if you do need to leave home when sick, wearing a mask and avoiding contact with people as much as possible.

Ms Wheeler said that Healthy North Coast was also keen to partner with local clinicians, pharmacies, community groups and other businesses to help get the word out about vaccination protection in our community.

‘Back by popular demand, we have developed a new set of free posters as a timely reminder for community members to ‘boost their immunity’ this flu season, including COVID-19 vaccination.

‘The poster set is designed for our North Coast communities, with tailored messaging reviewed by local clinicians and an option to customise the posters with your own practice or business logo,’ said Ms Wheeler.

Posters are currently being distributed directly to all general practices in the region and are available to order from the Healthy North Coast website at https://hnc.org.au/vaccinesprotect/.

‘I would urge everyone to please speak with their GP, Aboriginal medical service or participating pharmacy today about booking their vaccination and protecting themselves, their family and our community,’ Ms Wheeler said.

For more information, visit the Healthy North Coast website.

20

Apr

2023

Boosted funding for North Coast general practices through Strengthening Medicare Grants

Healthy North Coast is proud to support the Australian Government’s Strengthening Medicare – General Practice Grants Program as one of the 31 Primary Health Network (PHN) organisations entrusted with administering the grants in the local region. Eligible general practices in the North Coast area can apply for one-time grants of $25,000, $35,000, or $50,000 based on their practice size. GP practices not currently accredited against the RACGP standards will be eligible for $25,000.


Application packs will be sent out by Healthy North Coast over the next two weeks, and general practices have until 5pm on June 15, 2023, to submit their applications. The grants aim to provide much-needed funding for improvements in digital health, infection prevention and control, and general practice accreditation.


‘We understand the growing pressure faced by our general practice and AMS staff in meeting the healthcare needs of our community,” said Monika Wheeler, Chief Executive of Healthy North Coast.


‘Our region has weathered multiple challenges, from managing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to natural disasters, and our primary health services have risen to the occasion time and time again.’


Ms Wheeler added that the Strengthening Medicare grants will enable general practices to invest in technologies that enhance the connectivity of the health system, improve infection control processes to minimise risk for patients, and support quality and patient safety in general practices.


‘While our general practice staff welcomed the 2022 announcement and will undoubtedly benefit from the funding, it is ultimately our community members who will reap the greatest rewards,’ Ms Wheeler explained.


‘The grants will help us to enhance patient experience, provide safer health services through improved infection control, and ensure quality and patient safety in our general practices.’


In addition, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) are also eligible to apply for Strengthening Medicare grant funding through the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO).


Healthy North Coast encourages all eligible general practices in the North Coast region to take advantage of this opportunity to access much-needed funding and make meaningful improvements to their healthcare services.

06

Apr

2023

North Coast Health Connect comes to Coffs, Nambucca and Bellingen regions

Coffs Harbour residents are set to benefit from a free new service that aims to improve access to local healthcare.

North Coast Health Connect, now available for those living in Coffs Harbour postcodes, including the Nambucca and Bellingen regions, offers a free 1800 phone number or live web chat for residents to speak with a registered nurse any time of the day or night, including public holidays.

Funded by Healthy North Coast through the North Coast PHN program and delivered by Amplar Health, the service ensures urgent health concerns can be assessed quickly and confidentially by a trusted health professional. If needed, residents can be connected with a local service or a virtual care appointment.

Healthy North Coast’s Chief Executive Monika Wheeler said the service opens a new front door to local health care, including urgent care, for those unsure about the next step, helping to ease pressure on hospital resources.

‘Having launched to Port Macquarie residents in December and Kempsey residents last month, the service has already supported hundreds of locals to receive health advice quickly wherever they are and in a way that suits them.

‘We understand when there is a health urgency it’s important to get advice quickly no matter the time of day. North Coast Health Connect nurses will assess your symptoms and provide on-the-spot advice.

‘Most people don’t want to go to a hospital emergency department if they can avoid it, but it can be hard to get a GP appointment in some areas. Medical issues also often strike after hours when local services are closed.

‘North Coast Health Connect offers an alternative, with nurses on-call around the clock, ready to listen to your health concerns and connect you to the right level of care at the right time, including bookings with a local GP or pharmacist,’ said Ms Wheeler.

Ms Wheeler said the need to see a GP face-to-face for some health concerns will never change and participating local general practices have made appointments available specifically for users of the North Coast Health Connect service.  The service is also strongly supported by the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA), with local pharmacists signed up to make consultations available.

Amplar Health Chief Executive Officer Dr Andrew Wilson said the Amplar team is thrilled to be delivering the North Coast Health Connect service to Coffs Harbour residents, as improving primary care access is a key element to ensuring the sustainability of healthcare in Australia.

‘Our digital and clinical expertise will ensure the service delivers increased access, choice and control to the local Coffs community,’ Dr Wilson said.

Mid North Coast Local Health District Chief Executive Stewart Dowrick said he fully supported this new and innovative model and will be promoting North Coast Health Connect through the Mid North Coast hospital system.

‘For those who may have been struggling to access the health system, North Coast Health Connect is a direct line to a qualified and trusted health professional, rather than facing a long wait in a busy ED.

‘It’s up to all of us to make the best possible use of our hospital resources and keep our emergency departments for emergencies,’ Mr Dowrick said.

Pharmaceutical Society of Australia National President Dr Fei Sim applauded Healthy North Coast for their innovation in a health system under increasing stress.

‘With the Australian health system under enormous pressure, there is an important role for pharmacists to play in supporting patients with non-urgent health care needs,’ Dr Sim said.

‘Services like North Coast Health Connect that connect patients with an appropriate healthcare profession – whether it be a GP, a pharmacist, or another health professional – are vital to ensuring our health system efficiently utilises all resources,’ said Dr Sim.

Ms Wheeler said North Coast Health Connect delivers on what the North Coast community asked for – being able to speak to a health expert for free over a convenient and confidential 24/7 channel with connections to face-to-face local health care.

‘We are excited to see Coffs Harbour residents have access to this service which has already supported many in Port Macquarie and Kempsey. We encourage you to speak with a North Coast Health Connect nurse on 1800 198 888 or live chat at northcoasthealthconnect.org.au next time you have an urgent health issue,’ said Ms Wheeler.

Amplar and Healthy North Coast are planning to make North Coast Health Connect available to all North Coast residents by mid-2023.

North Coast Health Connect will also be evaluated by world-leading medical research centre, The George Institute for Global Health, over the next five years.

To find out more about North Coast Health Connect, visit  northcoasthealthconnect.org.au

31

Mar

2023

Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain Clinic to open in Coffs Harbour

The Coffs Harbour Women’s Health Centre has been selected as one of 20 Australian Government-funded sites to establish a specialised Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain Clinic.

Healthy North Coast, the local not-for-profit organisation delivering the Australian Government’s Primary Health Network Program, is providing $700,000 over four years to GenHealth, which operates the Coffs Harbour Women’s Health Centre.

Healthy North Coast Chief Executive Monika Wheeler said the clinic would expand existing services available at the health centre, providing more people with access and options for primary health care.

‘This is great news for our Mid North Coast region. The new funding will go toward hiring specialised staff, including nurse practitioners and allied health professionals, as well as investing in equipment and fit-outs such as pelvic physiotherapy areas,’ said Ms Wheeler.

‘Endometriosis affects at least one in nine Australian women and can have a significant impact on their daily lives. Currently, women wait an average of seven years for diagnosis. Pelvic pain can be similarly complex and debilitating.

‘The new clinic will help reduce diagnostic delays and promote early access to information and care pathways for women with endometriosis and pelvic pain.

‘Healthy North Coast will be working closely with the Coffs Harbour Women’s Health Centre to plan the clinic operations and ensure it meets the needs of our community.’

Dr Shelley Rowe, Chief Executive of GenHealth, said the new clinic would fill a much-needed gap in the region.

‘It will provide a new avenue of care for girls and women diagnosed with endometriosis and pelvic pain,’ Dr Rowe said.

‘It means people experiencing these health concerns, and complications from these issues, will be able to be treated close to home, an important goal for healthcare and a priority for women and their families.

‘Many women already travel from regional towns and centres to access treatment in Coffs Harbour. Our GPs saw over 2,000 women last year; our allied health professionals saw over 500 women; and our nurses saw over 1,500, which indicates the demand there is here for specialist women’s services in this regional area.

‘The establishment of the new clinic will strengthen the capability of the entire local health workforce and provide improved options for referral,’ Dr Rowe said.

The exact timing for service commencement is still being planned. Further information will be available through the Coffs Harbour Women’s Health Centre Facebook page.

A full list of selected clinic sites is available here.

13

Mar

2023

North Coast Health Connect launches in Kempsey

North Coast Health Connect – a new front door to local healthcare Kempsey residents are set to benefit from a free new service that aims to improve access to local healthcare.

North Coast Health Connect, launched today for Kempsey Shire postcodes, offers a free 1800 phone number or live web chat for residents to speak with a registered nurse any time of the day or night, including public holidays.

Funded by Healthy North Coast through the North Coast PHN program and delivered by Amplar Health, the service ensures urgent health concerns can be assessed quickly and confidentially by a trusted health professional. If needed, residents can be connected with a local service or a virtual care appointment.

Healthy North Coast’s Chief Executive Monika Wheeler said the service opens a new front door to local health care, including urgent care, for those unsure about the next step, helping to ease pressure on hospital resources.

‘Having launched to Port Macquarie residents in December, the service has already supported hundreds of locals to receive health advice quickly wherever they are and in a way that suits them.

‘We understand when there is a health urgency it’s important to get advice quickly no matter the time of day. North Coast Health Connect nurses will assess your symptoms and provide on-the-spot advice.

‘Most people don’t want to go to a hospital emergency department if they can avoid it, but it can be hard to get a GP appointment in some areas. Medical issues also often strike after hours when local services are closed.

‘North Coast Health Connect offers an alternative, with nurses on-call around the clock, ready to listen to your health concerns and connect you to the right level of care at the right time, including bookings with a local GP or pharmacist,’ said Ms Wheeler.

Ms Wheeler said the need to see a GP face-to-face for some health concerns will never change and participating local general practices have made appointments available specifically for users of the North Coast Health Connect service.

The service is also strongly supported by the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA), with local pharmacists signed up to make consultations available.

Amplar Health Chief Executive Officer, Dr Andrew Wilson, said the Amplar team is thrilled to be delivering the North Coast Health Connect service to Kempsey residents, as improving primary care access is a key element to ensuring the sustainability of healthcare in Australia.

‘Our digital and clinical expertise will ensure the service delivers increased access, choice and control to the local Kempsey community,’ Dr Wilson said.

Mid North Coast Local Health District Chief Executive Stewart Dowrick said he fully supported this new and innovative model and will be promoting North Coast Health Connect through the Mid North Coast hospital system.

‘For those who may have been struggling to access the health system, North Coast Health Connect is a direct line to a qualified and trusted health professional, rather than facing a long wait in a busy ED.

‘It’s up to all of us to make the best possible use of our hospital resources and keep our emergency departments for emergencies,’ Mr Dowrick said.

PSA National President Dr Fei Sim applauded Healthy North Coast for their innovation in a health system under increasing stress.

‘With the Australian health system is under enormous pressure, there is an important role for pharmacists to play in supporting patients with non-urgent health care needs,’ Dr Sim said.

‘Services like North Coast Health Connect that connect patients with an appropriate healthcare profession – whether it be a GP, a pharmacist, or another health professional – are vital to ensuring our health system efficiently utilises all resources,’ said Dr Sim.

Ms Wheeler said North Coast Health Connect delivers on what the North Coast community asked for – being able to speak to a health expert for free over a convenient and confidential 24/7 channel with connections to face-to-face local health care.

‘We are excited to see Kempsey Shire residents have access to this service which has already supported many in Port Macquarie. We encourage you to speak with a North Coast Health Connect nurse on 1800 198 888 or live chat at northcoasthealthconnect.org.au next time you have an urgent health issue,’ said Ms Wheeler.

Amplar and Healthy North Coast are planning to make North Coast Health Connect available to all North Coast residents by mid-2023. North Coast Health Connect will also be evaluated by world-leading medical research centre, The George Institute for Global Health, over the next five years.

To find out more about North Coast Health Connect, visit northcoasthealthconnect.org.au

27

Feb

2023

Free mental health support for Northern Rivers communities

Northern Rivers residents are reminded that free mental health support is only a phone call or web chat away, with in-person counselling also available.

Healthy North Coast Chief Executive, Monika Wheeler, said that these next few weeks could be particularly challenging for Northern Rivers residents and urged locals to prioritise their mental health.

‘Looking out for each other is what has got our community through the past 12 months. There are many things about our current situation that we cannot change, but we can all take steps to look after our heads and hearts,’ Ms Wheeler said.

‘If you or someone you know is struggling or could simply benefit from a friendly and supportive chat, I urge you to reach out.

‘Healthy North Coast offers a range of free and after-hours services to support mental health and wellbeing for all ages, with a number of them made available through Australian Government and NSW Government flood recovery.

‘There’s no shame in saying you’re feeling overwhelmed or just want to talk things through. I encourage all community members, including our hardworking primary care professionals, to prioritise their mental health care over the coming weeks,’ Ms Wheeler said.

Head to Health

Head to Health offers free mental health support over the phone or in person at the Lismore Head to Health hub. Head to Health is a welcoming entry point for engagement, assessment and treatment for people seeking mental health advice and support.

Call 1800 595 212 weekdays from 8.30am to 5pm to chat to a team member who can connect you with support or visit https://hnc.org.au/head-to-health-helpline.

The Lismore Head to Hub is open Monday-Friday 10am to 8pm, Saturday noon to 8pm, and Sunday 10am to 2pm. It is located at the Lismore Health Precinct, Southern Cross University Health Clinic, P Block North, Rifle Range Road, East Lismore. Drop-ins are encouraged and you don’t need a referral or appointment.

Safe Haven Community and wellbeing hubs

Located in Woodburn, Lismore, Mullumbimby and Murwillumbah, Safe Haven hubs are open to anyone seeking free mental health support, including their family, friends and carers. Safe Haven hubs are open 12 — 6pm every day. Drop-ins are encouraged and you don’t need a referral or appointment. Visit the Safe Haven website to learn more.

headspace

headspace centres offer mental health support and advice for young people aged 12 to 25. All services are free or low cost. Headspace centres are located at the Lismore Health Precinct at South Cross University, Tweed and Grafton, and are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. You don’t need a referral or appointment.

Alternatively, headspace can also support young people online or by phone, seven days a week between 9am – 1am.

Strong Community Program

The Strong Community Program provides free specialist mental health support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Northern Rivers, age 12 years and over. Mental health and wellbeing supports include in-person counselling, mental health promotion in schools and outreach to communities in Cabbage Tree Island, Wardell, Ballina, Box Ridge, Woodburn, Lismore and neighbouring areas.

For in-person support, visit 133 Ballina Rd, East Lismore. Contact Strong Community by email on [email protected] or call 0456 447 790 or 1300 727 957.

GP Telehealth

If you can’t access your regular GP, Healthy North Coast offers a 24-hour free GP telehealth service across the Northern Rivers. Through a phone or video consult, you can access health advice, diagnosis and treatment, as well as electronic prescriptions, medical certificates and specialist referrals. To book a GP telehealth consult, call 1800 931 158.

If you need immediate support:

In an emergency, call 000 or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.

 

08

Dec

2022

North Coast Health Connect – a new front door to local healthcare

Residents living in Port Macquarie area postcodes will be the first to benefit from a free new service that aims to improve access to local healthcare.

North Coast Health Connect, launched on December 8, offers a free 1800 phone number or live web chat for residents to speak with a registered nurse any time of the day or night, including public holidays.

Funded by Healthy North Coast through the North Coast PHN program and delivered by Amplar Health, the new service ensures urgent health concerns can be assessed quickly and confidentially by a trusted health professional. If needed, residents can be connected with a local service or a virtual care appointment.

Healthy North Coast’s Chief Executive Monika Wheeler said the service opens a new front door to local health care, including urgent care, for those unsure about the next step, helping to ease pressure on hospital resources.

‘We understand when there is a health urgency it’s important to get advice quickly no matter the time of day. North Coast Health Connect nurses will assess your symptoms and provide on-the-spot advice,’ said Ms Wheeler.

‘Most people don’t want to go to a hospital emergency department if they can avoid it, but it can be hard to get a GP appointment in some areas. Medical issues also often strike after hours when local services are closed.

‘North Coast Health Connect offers an alternative, with nurses on-call around the clock, ready to listen to your health concerns and connect you to the right level of care at the right time, including bookings with a local GP or pharmacist,’ said Ms Wheeler.

Ms Wheeler said the need to see a GP face-to-face for some health concerns will never change and North Coast Health Connect is supported by participating local general practices who have made appointments available specifically for users of the North Coast Health Connect service. Local pharmacists have also signed up to make consultations available.

Amplar Health Chief Executive Officer, Dr Andrew Wilson, said the Amplar team is thrilled to be selected to deliver the North Coast Health Connect service, as improving primary care access is a key element to ensuring the sustainability of healthcare in Australia.

‘We look forward to providing our digital and clinical expertise to deliver a service for Healthy North Coast that increases access, choice and control for the local community,’ Dr Wilson said.

Mid North Coast Local Health District Chief Executive Stewart Dowrick said he fully supported this new and innovative model and will be promoting North Coast Health Connect through the Mid North Coast hospital system.

‘It’s up to all of us to make the best possible use of our hospital resources and keep our emergency departments for emergencies,’ said Mr Dowrick.

‘For those who may have been struggling to access the health system, North Coast Health Connect is a direct line to a qualified and experienced health professional, rather than facing a long wait in a busy ED, ‘ Mr Dowrick said.

PSA National President Dr Fei Sim applauded Healthy North Coast for their innovation in a health system under increasing stress.

‘The Australian health system is under enormous pressure, and there is an important role for pharmacists to play in supporting patients with non-urgent health care needs, Dr Sim said.

‘Services like North Coast Health Connect that connect patients with an appropriate healthcare profession – whether it be a GP, a pharmacist, or another health professional – are vital to ensuring our health system efficiently utilises all resources,’ said Dr Sim.

Ms Wheeler said North Coast Health Connect delivers on what the North Coast community asked for – being able to speak to a health expert for free over a convenient and confidential 24/7 channel with connections to face-to-face local health care.

‘We are excited to see Port Macquarie residents be the first to get on board. We encourage you to speak with a North Coast Health Connect nurse on 1800 198 888 or live chat at northcoasthealthconnect.org.au next time you have an urgent health issue,’ said Ms Wheeler.

Healthy North Coast is planning to make North Coast Health Connect available to all North Coast residents in early 2023.

North Coast Health Connect will also be evaluated by world-leading medical research centre, The George Institute for Global Health, over the next five years.

To find out more about North Coast Health Connect, visit northcoasthealthconnect.org.au

14

Oct

2022

Don’t be complacent despite end to COVID-19 isolation rules

Healthy North Coast Acting Chief Executive, Monika Wheeler, is urging North Coast residents to stay vigilant when it comes to COVID-19.

‘With mandatory self-isolation rules changing today Friday 14 October, it would be easy to think COVID is no longer a threat to our community.

‘In case people think COVID-19 has faded away, in the past week in NSW there have been 6,799 cases confirmed by RATs and 3,968 cases confirmed by PCR tests, so the virus is still quite active.

‘There is also the possibility of new COVID-19 strains emerging, so we can’t be complacent,” Ms Wheeler said.

Following a national Cabinet decision earlier this month, all Australian states and territories agreed that from 14 October 2022, it will no longer be mandatory to self-isolate at home if you test positive for COVID-19 unless you work in the health or aged care sector.

“It’s still vital, however, that we all work together to keep our community safe,” said Ms Wheeler.

‘Since the arrival of COVID-19, we have learnt a lot about infection control and reducing the spread of diseases like COVID-19 and influenza.

‘The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 and influenza is to continue to follow the health advice we know so well – be vaccinated, wash your hands, stay home if you are unwell and get tested if you have symptoms,” Ms Wheeler said.

“To protect our most vulnerable, all people over the age of 12 must still wear a face mask at public hospitals, private health or residential care facilities, and hostels.

‘It’s still very important to stay up-to-date with vaccinations, particularly for children, and to book in for your relevant COVID-19 booster,” Ms Wheeler said.

The NSW Government has also ended mandatory reporting of positive rapid antigen tests.

However, NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant asks people to continue to report positive results, as it allows NSW Health to connect people to medical care – particularly older people and the immunocompromised.

North Coast residents can book a COVID-19 vaccination appointment by texting ‘Hey EVA’ (Easy Vaccination Access) to 0481 611 382 or visiting the online COVID-19 vaccination clinic finder to book an appointment.

05

Sep

2022

Lismore Head to Health broadens community support with new opening hours

Lismore’s Head to Health Hub has extended its opening times, now open after-hours and on weekends, making it even easier for local residents to access mental health support.

Located at the Lismore Health Precinct at Southern Cross University, the Lismore Head to Health hub is now open Monday-Friday 10am to 8pm and Saturday-Sunday 12 noon to 8pm.

Funded by Healthy North Coast through the PHN Program, Head to Health offers free mental health support both in-person and over the phone.

Healthy North Coast CEO Julie Sturgess said Head to Health was a welcoming entry point for engagement, assessment and treatment for people seeking mental health advice and support.

‘With all that has been thrown at our community over the past two years, there’s no shame in saying you’re feeling overwhelmed or just want to talk things through,’ Ms Sturgess said.

‘It’s really important that we prioritise our mental health and wellbeing and reach out if we need help.’

Healthy North Coast has recently commissioned local provider Open Minds to provide the in-person Lismore Head to Health service for those aged 18 and over. Referrals are not necessary and walk-ins are welcome.

Call 1800 595 212 weekdays from 8.30am-5pm to chat to a team member who can connect you with support.

‘Head to Health is free and can connect you to the right mental health information, counselling and services to suit your needs. I really hope people take that first step rather than push their concerns aside,’ said Ms Sturgess.

For more information, free call 1800 595 212 or visit https://hnc.org.au/head-to-health-helpline.

The Lismore Head to Hub is located at the Lismore Health Precinct, Southern Cross University Health Clinic, P Block North, Rifle Range Road, East Lismore.

Head to Health is not an emergency service. For 24/7 emergency support, call:

  • 24hr Mental Health Line — 1800 011 511
  • Lifeline — 13 11 14
  • Beyond Blue — 1300 224 636
  • For children under 12 years: Kids Helpline — 1800 551 800

In an emergency, call 000 or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.

16

Aug

2022

Message from Healthy North Coast’s Chair — CEO changes

On behalf of the Healthy North Coast Board, it is with great regret that I advise that Julie Sturgess, our Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of 4 years, will soon be leaving Healthy North Coast to take up another opportunity in the primary care sector.  

In the time that Julie has been with us, she has led Healthy North Coast with passion, vision and unceasing commitment to our North Coast community that has faced devastating bushfires, unprecedented floods, and a global pandemic. She leaves Healthy North Coast as a primary health network recognised for its innovation, collaboration with other agencies, and ability to get things done. 

Julie’s many achievements in the 4 years she has been with us include: 

  • leadership and support throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for our community and primary care providers, including the establishment of GP Respiratory Clinics, establishing telehealth services, provision of PPE and driving our vaccination campaign to achieve an outstanding vaccination rate of more than 95% for double doses 
  • in the wake of the recent devastating floods across the Northern Rivers, scaling up our 24-hr free GP telehealth service for people in need, establishing the Lismore Primary Health Precinct and Lismore Head to Health hub within weeks of the floods, rolling out a mobile GP clinic, and setting up 4 Safe Haven community support and wellbeing hubs to provide critical mental health support to hard-hit communities 
  • ongoing development of an innovative model to improve community access to primary care, delivering professional and accredited nurse triage services through phone and web channels, and reducing the burden on hospital emergency departments  
  • establishing the North Coast Collective, which harnesses the collaborative efforts of our local health districts, the NSW Government agencies of Health, Community and Justice, Education, Police and Emergency Services, Aboriginal Affairs NSW and the Aboriginal Community-Controlled sector, health consumers, community members and local health and social providers to improve health outcomes for our region 
  • development of a System Dynamics Modelling tool, currently used in services planning and modelling for our Mental Health and the other Drugs, Healthy Ageing and Aboriginal Health programs. 

With all these achievements and many more, Julie leaves our organisation and community in a much stronger position than when she arrived, with robust governance, quality and organisational structures and a commitment to healthy communities as a cornerstone of Healthy North Coast’s approach.  

Julie will be finishing with our organisation on 9 September 2022, following which Monika Wheeler, current Executive Director of Wellness, will commence as Acting CEO until the Board finalises a formal CEO appointment.  

Monika is well-known and respected in the North Coast Primary Health community. She has over 15 years’ experience leading social policy strategy and health service delivery and holds a Master of Public Policy from the University of Sydney. Monika has worked at the local, state, national and international levels in government and not-for-profit organisations, including over 6 years in various leadership roles with Healthy North Coast.  

The Healthy North Coast Board wishes Julie all the best for her future endeavours. We thank her for her leadership through challenging times and her steadfast commitment to improving community health outcomes across the North Coast.  

Dr Adrian Gilliland
Board Chair
Healthy North Coast

27

Jul

2022

New Safe Havens offer mental health support across Northern Rivers

The NSW Government and Healthy North Coast today launched four new Safe Haven community support and wellbeing hubs across the Northern Rivers region to offer mental health support and build community resilience.

Established and funded by Healthy North Coast through the New South Government Northern NSW Flood Recovery Program, the four sites will be delivered and managed by local organisation, The Buttery. Located in Lismore, Murwillumbah, Mullumbimby and Woodburn, Safe Haven hubs will offer a free ‘drop-in’ service that operates 7 days a week, from 12-6pm.

Healthy North Coast CEO Julie Sturgess welcomed the Safe Haven hubs as places of support and refuge, offering immediate, personalised and compassionate mental health support and counselling.

‘The North Coast has been hit hard recently by the devastating floods, coming off the back of the pandemic and other natural disasters,’ said Ms Sturgess.

‘We know many people are focussing on the basics right now, but we are also seeing great demand for mental health support to catch those in immediate distress or who might be feeling overwhelmed.

‘If you or someone you know needs mental health support and is not sure where to turn, I urge you to visit or recommend one of our Safe Havens.

‘You don’t need a referral. You don’t need to book. All services are free. If you need someone to talk to, walk in and we will help, weekdays or weekends,’ said Ms Sturgess.

NSW Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor said the four centres have been specially designed to provide a welcoming environment and offer a wide range of services, including information, referrals and counselling support.

‘These Safe Havens are an approachable, welcoming alternative for people in distress who require acute mental health support and may be uncomfortable presenting to a busy emergency department,’ Mrs Taylor said.

‘We are proud these four new centres located across Northern NSW will be open to help people who have been overwhelmed by the weather events this year.

‘The NSW Government is investing $25 million over three years in mental wellbeing for flood impacted communities. $1 million of this funding is dedicated to the four Safe Havens in Northern NSW, with a further $7 million for clinical and non-clinical staff in the region, including staff at the four Safe Havens,” Mrs Taylor said.

Ms Sturgess also outlined that The Buttery, a well-established, not-for-profit mental health and specialist drug and alcohol organisation, was commissioned by Healthy North Coast through a competitive tender process.

‘The Buttery has been supporting the North Coast community since 1973 and has provided services to over 5,000 participants in its residential programs and 20,000 participants in its outreach services,’ Ms Sturgess said.

The Buttery Chief Executive Officer Leone Crayden said experienced mental health clinicians at each site will support anyone who arrives and needs urgent mental health support.

‘Safe Haven staff are trained in crisis response, acute interventions, counselling and case management. Non-clinical supports, such as peer support from those with lived experience, are also available.

‘Staff can refer clients to other mental health support services in the region and connect them with community services to address underlying factors causing their distress. These factors could include serious mental health concerns, drug and alcohol conditions, and stresses related to housing, finances, relationships, unemployment – anything affecting their mental health and wellbeing.

‘The response has been very positive with community members already dropping into the Safe Havens to receive support,” said Ms Crayden.

Ms Sturgess said Safe Haven hubs are culturally safe spaces, offering support to all community members, including people who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) Australians and people from the LGBTQIA+ community.

‘Everyone seeking mental health support, including their family, friends and carers, should feel welcome at a Safe Haven hub,‘ said Ms Sturgess.

For more information:

  • Visit www.safehavennc.org.au or drop into your community’s Safe Haven at:
    • Murwillumbah Safe Haven
    Shop 10-12, 41-45 Murwillumbah Street, Murwillumbah
  • Mullumbimby Safe Haven
    15 Tincogan Street, Mullumbimby
  • Lismore Safe Haven
    The Quad, 10 Magellan Street, Lismore
  • Woodburn Safe Haven
    Visitors Information Centre, 114 River Street, Woodburn
15

Jul

2022

Fourth COVID vaccine dose protects the vulnerable

As COVID-19 continues to circulate in our communities, Healthy North Coast is encouraging all those who are eligible for a fourth vaccine dose to book now. 

From Monday, 11 July an additional 7.4 million Australians became eligible to receive a fourth vaccination. This followed the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) updating its recommendations. 

ATAGI now recommends that people aged 50 to 64 years should have their fourth dose. People aged 30 to 49 years may choose to have a fourth shot, as they are now eligible. 

Healthy North Coast Chief Executive Officer Julie Sturgess said ATAGI had also reduced the recommended interval between vaccinations from 4 months to 3 months. The interval between a person catching COVID and recovering, and their next recommended vaccine dose, is also 3 months. 

‘The North Coast has an outstanding COVID vaccination rate – greater than 95% for people aged 15-plus who have had 2 doses, but it is important to continue to strengthen protection given COVID-19 variants are still circulating,’ Ms Sturgess said. 

‘For those who’ve had 3 or more shots, we’re slightly behind the NSW average – 66% compared to 68% as of 10 July. 

‘It’s important we all stay up to date to protect ourselves and our community and help lessen the strain on the health system.’ 

You can book a COVID-19 vaccination appointment by texting ‘Hey EVA’ (Easy Vaccination Access) to 0481 611 382 or visit the online COVID-19 vaccination clinic finder to book an appointment. 

COVID-19 vaccinations are free and available at a range of locations including local GPs, pharmacies or respiratory clinics. 

In other recent changes, all Australians aged over 70 who test positive to COVID will be able to access antivirals on the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme. 

Access will also be expanded to: 

  • people aged over 50 with two or more risk factors for severe disease 
  • Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people aged over 30 with two or more risk factors for severe disease 
  • immunocompromised people over 18 who may also be eligible. 
  • Antiviral treatments, taken as a tablet or capsule, help to stop COVID-19 infection from becoming severe – but they need to be started early after testing positive,’ Ms Sturgess said. 

Influenza vaccination 

Healthy North Coast is urging North Coast residents to take advantage of free flu shots offered by the NSW Government up to 17 July and to book a vaccination appointment with their GP or local pharmacy as soon as possible. 

‘The influenza vaccination is recommended for everyone aged 6 months and over,’ Ms Sturgess said. 

‘It can be given on the same day as the COVID-19 vaccine. There are over 200 locations across the North Coast where people can access their COVID or flu vaccines, including GPs and pharmacies.’ 

Ms Sturgess said people should continue to take precautions to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and influenza, such as: 

  • staying at home if you are sick and avoiding close contact with other people to protect yourself and the community 
  • wearing a mask in indoor spaces if you are unable to physically distance 
  • sneezing into your elbow instead of your hands 
  • washing your hands thoroughly and often. 
23

Jun

2022

North Coast residents urged to stay protected this winter

Healthy North Coast is reminding communities across our region to stay on top of their COVID vaccinations, as well as booking in for a free flu shot this month. Conveniently, the COVID-19 and influenza vaccines can be given at the same time if you are due for both.

 

Flu cases rising

Healthy North Coast Chief Executive, Julie Sturgess, said the latest health data indicates influenza activity in the community is increasing rapidly, due to an early start to the winter influenza season.

‘Due to COVID-19 restrictions and reduced travel, there was very little influenza getting around in the community last year and also a decrease in influenza vaccine coverage,’ Ms Sturgess said.

‘Now that international and state borders are open again, we’re seeing a dramatic increase in influenza cases.

‘As at 11 June 2022, there were 1,558 notifications of influenza cases across the North Coast this year, with 76% of these notifications reported within the last 4 weeks, so we’re definitely seeing case numbers climb as winter sets in.

‘We are urging North Coast residents to take advantage of free flu shots offered by the NSW Government up to 30 June and to book a vaccination appointment with their GP or local pharmacy as soon as possible.’

The influenza vaccine is recommended for everyone aged 6 months and over and can be given with other vaccines, including COVID-19.

 

COVID still a risk to community

Ms Sturgess said the North Coast has an outstanding COVID vaccination rate, but it’s important to continue to strengthen protection given COVID variants are still circulating.

‘I urge parents to not let their and their children’s vaccination dates slip,’ she said. ‘Whether it’s a second dose for younger children or a booster for teens aged 12-15 who may be more vulnerable to COVID than others, please take the time to book an appointment so we can maintain a high level of protection across the region.’

As at 20 June 2022, 65% of eligible North Coast residents aged 15+ have had their booster shot, behind the NSW average of 68%.

COVID-19 vaccinations are free and available at a range of locations including local GPs, pharmacies or respiratory clinics.

You can book a COVID-19 vaccination appointment by texting ‘Hey EVA’ (Easy Vaccination Access) to 0481 611 382 or visit the online COVID-19 vaccination clinic finder to book an appointment.

‘Ideally, we would like everyone to book their COVID-booster and flu shot for the same time to maximise community protection,’ Ms Sturgess said.

 

COVID-19 vaccination

  • As at 9 June 2022, ATAGI recommends that a booster dose of Pfizer vaccine may be given to adolescents aged 12 to 15 who completed their primary course 3 or more months ago and they:
    •  are severely immunocompromised
    •  have a disability with significant or complex needs
    •  have complex and/or multiple health conditions .
  • Children aged 5 to 11 and other adolescents aged 12-15 are not yet recommended to get a COVID-19 booster.
  • Some people who are at a higher risk of severe disease and complications from COVID-19 are recommended to have a second booster dose, which can be given 4 months after their first booster dose. This includes people aged over 65, residents of aged care or disability facilities, people with severe immunocompromise, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 and over, people aged 16-64 with a medical condition that increases the risk of severe COVID-19 illness, and people with disability with significant or complex health needs or multiple comorbidities that increase the risk of poor outcome from COVID-19.

 

Influenza immunisation

NSW Government announced free flu shots for everyone aged 6 months and older from 1 June 2022 to 30 June 2022.

Those considered to be at higher risk of severe illness from influenza are eligible all year for free annual flu vaccination under the National Immunisation Program. This includes:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from six months of age
  • children from six months to under five years of age
  • people with serious health conditions (including severe asthma, diabetes, cancer, immune disorders, obesity, kidney, heart, lung or liver disease)
  • pregnant women
  • people aged 65 and over.

 

Minimise your risk of catching COVID-19 or the flu 

Take simple precautions to minimise the risk of catching COVID-19 or the flu and passing it on:

  • stay at home if you are sick and avoid close contact with other people to protect yourself and the community from COVID-19 and the flu
  • wear a mask in indoor spaces if you are unable to physically distance.
  • sneeze into your elbow instead of your hands.
  • wash your hands thoroughly and often.

 

25

May

2022

Community Wellbeing and Resilience Flood Recovery Grants: Grant writing assistance available

Community organisations can now apply for funding through the three-year, $5 million Community Wellbeing and Resilience Flood Recovery Grants program, as well as assistance to help with their grant application.

Grants will be awarded to non-government providers helping the community from the ground up, by providing community-based trauma and healing programs that support local recovery and build community resilience.

Funded by the NSW Government as part of the Northern NSW flood recovery package, the grants will be delivered by Healthy North Coast to help communities recover from flood impacts and strengthen their capacity to meet future challenges.

Healthy North Coast Chief Executive Officer, Julie Sturgess, said Healthy North Coast is seeking innovative proposals that get people connecting, communicating, learning and supporting each other – activities that tap into the region’s social support networks.

‘We know many people are focussing on the basics right now, but we also need to rebuild community connections that are so vital for a positive outlook when times are tough. This is about supporting hearts and minds to get the North Coast back on its feet,’ Ms Sturgess said.

To support participation, Healthy North Coast has partnered with Successful Grants to offer local community organisations up to 2 hours of free professional assistance with the application process.

This assistance includes concept scoping, application review and feedback.

‘We welcome our partnership with Successful Grants, which will help those smaller organisations that might be unfamiliar with the tender process and overwhelmed by the writing task,’ Ms Sturgess said.

 

Community Wellbeing and Resilience Flood Recovery Grants program 

The grants program has a key focus on young people, older people and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the NSW local government areas of Lismore, Richmond Valley, Tweed, Ballina, Byron, Kyogle and Clarence Valley.

Healthy North Coast is inviting proposals for the following eligible community-led activities or services:

  • Trauma-based education programs: Training and education programs such as trauma education or personal resilience programs, that promote trauma-informed principles and practices.
  • Social and emotional wellbeing: Clinical or psychosocial trauma-informed interventions that improve wellbeing and increase emotional resilience.
  • Cultural connection: Activities that strengthen cultural connection
  • Social and community connection: Initiatives that build individual or community connections to support recovery. Examples include, but are not limited to, neighbourhood networks, peer support groups, etc.

 

Grant application assistance and submission 

As well as offering assistance with the grant application process, Successful Grants has also distilled the tender documents into an easy-to-read one-page document, so that organisations can quickly assess their eligibility for the program.

If you are a local community-based organisation and would like to access this assistance, please email [email protected]

Applications close at 8am on Friday 27 May 2022.

 

28

Mar

2022

New service supports community’s mental health

Collaboration, cooperation and the desire to help those in need has seen the establishment of a new mental health support service in Lismore just 4 weeks after floods devastated the region.

The Lismore Head to Health Hub begins operating today. It is located at Healthy North Coast’s new Lismore Primary Health Precinct, which opened its doors only last week at Southern Cross University.

Funded by the Australian Government through the PHN Program as part of the Northern NSW flood recovery efforts, Head to Health offers free mental health support both in-person and through telehealth. Head to Health Hubs are designed to provide a welcoming entry point for engagement, assessment and treatment for people who may be experiencing distress or crisis.

The intent of the Head to Health Lismore Hub is to offer immediate care and service navigation to connect people to the right services based on need. It is also a priority of the Head to Health model to provide culturally safe responses to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

No referrals are needed.

Healthy North Coast Chief Executive Julie Sturgess said the new service would ensure the community in and around Lismore has access to the mental health support they need.

‘We recognise that specific components of the new service will be essential to help people deal with the trauma they’ve experienced and its after-effects,’ Ms Sturgess said.

‘Mental health support is in high demand right now and into the foreseeable future. The impacts of the floods and, before this disaster, the ongoing pandemic means we all need to prioritise our mental health and wellbeing.

‘Establishing the Lismore Head to Health Hub has been a great example of responding to local community needs. We’ve fast-tracked the service launch thanks to the many willing hands.

‘Our own Healthy North Coast teams, supported by SCU staff, have pulled out all stops. Local suppliers and tradies have worked tirelessly to transform the building, and the dedicated service providers at Neami National who will start delivery services today have all made this possible.’

‘This service is designed to be a one-door for anyone seeking mental health support. Qualified staff can direct you to the service, information or resource that best suits your needs.’

Call Head to Health on 1800 595 212 from Monday to Friday 8:30am-5:00pm or visit the Lismore Head to Health Hub at Southern Cross University’s Health Clinic, P Block North, Rifle Range Road, East Lismore.

Find out more at hnc.org.au/headtohealth

Head to Health is not a crisis service. For immediate 24/7 support contact:

  • Mental Health Access Line 1800 011 511
  • Lifeline 13 11 14
  • Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467

In an emergency call 000 or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.

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23

Mar

2022

Doors open on new Lismore Primary Health Precinct at Southern Cross University Health Clinic

Caption (L-R): The Hon Kevin Hogan MP, Federal Member for Page; Tony Davies, Chief Executive Officer, Social Futures;  Professor Julie Jomeen, Executive Dean, Faculty of Health, Southern Cross University; Healthy North Coast Chief Executive Officer, Julie Sturgess; Chelsea Luker, Psychologist, Connect Us Psychology; Kyle Wood, Pharmacist and Managing Partner, Southside ChemPro; at the launch of the Lismore Primary Health Precinct established by Healthy North Coast at Southern Cross University Health Clinic.

Healthy North Coast has today opened doors on the new Lismore Primary Health Precinct at Southern Cross University Health Clinic, giving flood-impacted primary care providers a new home and providing Lismore residents access to vital primary health services they urgently need.

Healthy North Coast Chief Executive Office Julie Sturgess says she is delighted to see the new precinct established and operational just three weeks after the flood emergency.

“It is a real testament to the spirit of collaboration across the Northern Rivers that we have been able to rapidly coordinate alternative clinic spaces for primary health providers that would otherwise be displaced,” said Ms Sturgess.

Funded by the Australian Government through the PHN Program as part of the Northern NSW flood recovery efforts, the new precinct has the capacity to house more than 20 primary health services, including general practice, pharmacy, pathology, mental health, and a range of other allied health services.

“There is an overwhelming community demand for these services, so operating from the new Lismore Primary Health Precinct ensures our local providers can remain viable, continue to generate income and, most importantly, care for their clients,” said Ms Sturgess.

“Today, Healthy North Coast is also launching a new online directory of primary care services onsite so that community members can find out more and make appointments. To view the directory, visit hnc.org.au/lismore-primary-health-precinct.

“I also want to extend my thanks to Southern Cross University for supporting the initiative and working with Healthy North Coast to stand up this new Primary Health Precinct so quickly.

“I want to emphasise that this is not a pop-up operation. We are certainly here to meet the immediate need for primary health service continuity and are also working through the medium- to long-term provider and community needs, so we can respond appropriately based on future plans for recovery.

“The resilience and determination shown by our primary care providers to rapidly relocate is matched only by our local community’s determination and strength to recover from this natural disaster event,” Ms Sturgess said.

22

Mar

2022

headspace Kempsey opens doors to better youth mental health

Healthy North Coast and the Samaritans are delighted to open the doors on a dedicated headspace Kempsey offering free or low-cost, holistic and youth-friendly health care and advice.

Located at 65 Smith Street, Kempsey, on the traditional homelands of the Dunghutti nation, the new headspace Kempsey service has been funded by Healthy North Coast through the Australian Government’s PHN Program to meet the needs of young people in the community.

“As well as the usual challenges of growing up and finding your place, young people in our region have also had to deal with the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of natural disasters over the past two years,” said Healthy North Coast Chief Executive Officer, Julie Sturgess.

“Now, thanks to Samaritans’ community partnerships, strong advocacy from our Federal Nationals Member for Cowper Pat Conaghan, and the support of Kempsey Shire Council, young people in Kempsey now have a dedicated centre purpose-built to meet their needs,” said Ms Sturgess.

Liz Knight, Executive Director of Education and Child Development in the Samaritans Foundation based in Newcastle, said that the last few years have been uncertain times for all.

“The Samaritans Foundation is strongly committed to providing high-quality, early intervention youth services that empower young people to overcome challenges and engage with their community to find their purpose and flourish.

“We know that youth mental health continues to be a leading cause of concern for our region, and one that needs to be addressed with a person-centred, compassionate and inclusive approach. Our work in this regard is a true reflection of the Anglican Church’s commitment to ensuring that no person feels alone on their mental health journey,” said Ms Knight.

headspace offers early intervention services across four key areas—mental health, related physical health, social and vocational support, and alcohol and other drug use. Services are co-designed with young people to ensure they are relevant, accessible and highly effective, including input from Samaritan’s Youth Representative Group (YRG).

While Kempsey’s young people can now access the headspace service, which is receiving referrals by phone or email, more details will be released soon about a community launch event planned for the coming weeks.

For more information or to access headspace Kempsey:

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12

Mar

2022

Lismore doctors offering street-side appointments

Lismore Clinic has opened its door to patients after nearly two weeks of being closed. But it’s a different kind of door. 

Thanks to the generosity of Street Side Medics and coordination by our Healthy North Coast Team, Lismore Clinic is currently seeing patients from a mobile medical centre parked out the front of their flood-damaged building at 185 Molesworth Street. 

The Street Side Medics van, fully stocked with medical supplies and equipment, is being loaned free of charge by this not-for-profit organisation who normally provides medical services to people experiencing homelessness in NSW. 

Today, Street Side Medics founder and Young Australian of the Year, Daniel Nour, met with Lismore Clinic and Healthy North Coast staff to do a walkthrough and handover.  

Positioned outside Lismore Clinic’s character-filled 1906 building, the state-of-the-art van is being staffed by their GPs over the weekend from 10am – 1pm, with extended hours likely next week. 

Clinic staff could not be more appreciative of the opportunity to start seeing their patients again. 

‘This building is over a hundred years old, so it has been through a lot of floods in the past, but nothing like this one,’ said Dr Emily Walker, Lismore Clinic GP.  

‘We lost a lot of equipment, probably about 50% of equipment. 

Being able to use the van as a temporary consult space has brought a smile, and a tear or two, to clinic staff. 

‘It’s really fantastic. There is so much equipment, as I said, that we don’t have, such as the ECG machine that this van has. The Wi-Fi has been incredibly helpful – the internet has been quite patchy. Just having things like dressings, a vaccine fridge, we’ll be able to provide the basic services that we’ve been longing to provide but have been unable to,’ said Dr Walker. 

We’ve got over ten thousand patients on our books that have not been able to see us over the last couple of weeks, it’s going to make a huge difference. 

‘Patients will really appreciate being able to come to see their usual doctors even if it’s in a slightly unusual environment. 

‘We’re hoping to get the rest of the clinic open up soon as well, bit by bit, so we can start to expand our capacity.’ 

This is just one initiative Healthy North Coast has supported across our flood-affected region to help primary health services get back on their feet. See the full list of Lismore local general practices, Aboriginal medical services and pharmacies.

If you aren’t able to access the van or your local GP, Healthy North Coast’s PHN Program also funds the free 24/7 GP Telehealth service who offer same-day appointments, including electronic prescriptions. Please call 1800 931 158. 

This is not an emergency medical service. In a medical emergency, please call Triple Zero (000). 

Our regional partners

  • Local Health District partners in our footprint: Mid North Coast Local Health District (MNCLHD) & Northern New South Wales Local Health District (NNSWLHD)
  • Aboriginal Medical Services (AMS)
  • The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP)
  • Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM)
  • Rural Doctors Network (RDN)
  • Rural Clinical Schools & Regional Training Hubs
  • General Practitioners
  • Registrars and International Medical Graduates
  • North Coast Allied Health Association (NCAHA)
  • Local Councils
    Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA)
  • Universities including: Charles Sturt University (CSU), University of New South Wales (UNSW), Southern Cross University (SCU)

Aged Care Disaster Management Planning

Strategic Priority Area: One team

North Coast is identified as the region most likely to be impacted by climate change in Australia and also forecasted greatest growth in those 65+.

Healthy North Coast takes a lead role in ensuring the older population and the sector that supports them are prepared for, can respond to and recover from disasters and other emergencies.

We have led eight regional disaster management capacity building workshops, bringing together SES, community organisations and the aged care sector.

We have also developed disaster preparedness tip sheets for both residential and community aged care providers.

Voluntary Assisted Dying

Strategic Priority Area: One team

In May 2022, the NSW Parliament passed the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2022. Effective from Tuesday, 28 November 2023, eligible people have the choice to access voluntary assisted dying. 

Healthy North Coast has developed a webpage for both health professionals and consumers, with links to available information and resources.

Living with Dementia resources

Strategic Priority Area: No one is left behind

Healthy North Coast has worked with people living with dementia, their families and local service providers to develop an information booklet that will help them connect with local and national supports along their journey.

The booklet includes commonly asked questions for people to ask their GP and/or specialist.

The resource is available in digital and printed copies, with more than 5,000 distributed across the region. An e-version is available to clinicians via the Dementia and Cognitive Impairment HealthPathway.

Deteriorating Resident Triage Tool Pilot

Strategic Priority Area: One team

The Deteriorating Resident Response Tool (DRRT) has been developed to guide RN’s in Residential Aged Care homes (RACHs) to better understand, anticipate and make clinical decisions responding to the deteriorating health of residents.

The objective of the DRRT is to give RACH staff clear information to triage and provide appropriate care for a range of residents’ health conditions, and, in turn, prevent unnecessary presentations to ED.

The tool has been designed together with a specialist geriatrician, consulting with stakeholders such as Residential Aged Care Managers, NSW Ambulance, GPs, and experts from Mid and North Coast LHDs.

The pilot commences in March with four participating RACHs. Evaluation measures will include effectiveness in building RN confidence and reported reduction in unnecessary hospitalisations. Findings will inform a future planned, region-wide implementation.

North Coast Care Finders Program

Strategic Priority Area: No one is left behind

The Care Finders program is a free region-wide service to support vulnerable older people who have no-one else to help them, to learn about, apply for and set up support services.

Care finders can help people understand what aged care services are available, set up an assessment, and find and choose services. They also help people with access to other supports in the community, both accessing services for the first time and changing or finding new services and supports.

On the North Coast, Healthy North Coast has commissioned four organisations to provide this important service: EACH, Carexcell, Lifetime Connect and Footprints.

icon with person and hands

Psychological services in residential aged care homes

Strategic Priority Area: Improving Lives Now

Healthy North Coast commissions two service providers to deliver psychological therapies and supports for older people with, or at risk of developing, a mental illness and who are living in residential aged care homes (RACHs).

The aim of the program is to both provide direct support to residents and their families and carers, as well as upskill the RACH workforce to respond to the needs of residents presenting with mental health concerns.

Social prescribing (Healthy Me Healthy Community)

Strategic Priority Area: Securing a Healthier Future

Delivered by Feros Care, the Healthy Me, Healthy Community program aims to build individual and community connections to reduce loneliness and improve wellbeing in Port Macquarie.

The program helps people to connect with community, activities, supports and services that address their broader social determinants of health, as an alternative or supplement to a clinical approach.

icon with person and hands

Digital Health in Residential Aged Care

Strategic Priority Area: Improving Lives Now

Timely access to primary health care professionals, whether through face-to-face consultation or telehealth, is recognised as an issue for many Residential Aged Care Homes (RACHs), that in some cases can lead to potentially preventable hospitalisations. RACHs require adequate telehealth facilities to support access to virtual consultations for their residents.

Project goals

  • Assist participating RACHs to have appropriate telehealth facilities and equipment to enable their residents to virtually consult when needed with their primary health care professionals, specialists and other clinicians. 
  • Provide training to participating RACH staff to support them to have the capabilities to assist their residents in accessing virtual consultation services.
  • Encourage increased use of My Health Record by RACHs, to improve the availability and secure transfer of resident’s health care information between RACHs, primary care and acute care settings.
icon with person and hands

Greater Choice at Home Palliative Care Program

Strategic Priority Area: Improving Lives Now

Aims to provide people who have life limiting conditions the opportunity to exercise choice and receive high quality care at home, harnessing improved and better coordinated supports and services that meet their individual needs.

Program objectives:

  • Improve access to palliative care at home and support end-of-life care systems and services (in primary health care and community care)
  • To enable the right care at the right time and in the right place (to reduce unnecessary hospitalisation)
  • Generate and use data to support continuous improvement of services across sectors
  • Use available technologies to support flexible and responsive palliative care at home, including in the after-hours.

These objectives will contribute to achieving the following intended overarching outcomes of:

  • Improved capacity and responsiveness of services to meet local needs and priorities
  • Improved patient access to quality palliative care services in the home
  • Improved coordination of care for patients across health care providers and integration of palliative care services in their region.

Education & training funding elibility

Funding is open to all primary care providers within disaster affected communities across the Healthy North Coast footprint.

Workforce Locum support and R&R funding criteria

  • Available to primary care services in disaster impacted communities within the Healthy North Coast footprint.
  • Available to support short-term workforce coverage, allowing clinicians to rest and recover.
  • Workforce-support funding in total is capped for each site, over a 12-month period:
    • $10k for GPs and/or
    • $5K for nursing and/or
    • $5k administration support and/or
    • $5K allied/pharmacy and other.
  • Funding is not to be used to fill gaps in staffing that have not been able to recruit to and not to replace existing staff.
  • Healthy North Coast will assess requirements and approve available funding directly with the service requesting support.
  • Priority will be given to sites that have immediate, short-term workforce support needs.
  • Requests will be reviewed and supported on a case-by-case basis.
  • Program funding administered via RCTI Agreement (Recipient Created Tax Invoice) to be paid monthly, or on completion of the placement (whichever comes first).
  • Practices will be required to complete a request for payment form monthly, or on completion of the placement (whichever occurs first).

Wellbeing Flexible Funding Criteria & Eligibility

  • Open to all primary care providers within disaster affected communities across the Healthy North Coast footprint.
  • Activity must be purposeful, with the aim of increasing the wellbeing of your team.
  • Requests will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, with funding allocated based on team size.*
  • Following approval by Healthy North Coast, funding will be administered via RCTI Agreement (Recipient Created Tax Invoice) upon providing proof of expenses.
  • Funding cannot be used for the purchase of alcohol, or any other goods or services where the vendor cannot quote their Australian Business Number.
  • Planned activities must occur prior to 30th June 2024.
  • Funding will not be available for retrospective activities.
*Team Size
(Total staff and contractors)
Funding Available
Small (1-5)$500-$1500
Medium (6-20)$1500-$4000
Large (>20)$4000-$5000