Media

22

Sep

2023

Landmark Agreement to Focus on Aboriginal Health Outcomes via a new Partnership in Primary Health Care

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.” Scott Monaghan – CEO Bulgarr Ngaru Medical Aboriginal

“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.” Fay Adamson – CEO Werin Aboriginal Corporation.

“By working in partnership, we are more effective and efficient – directing precious resources where they are most needed.” Georgina Bruinsma – CEO Rekindling the Spirit.

“The partnership will see us build and leverage regional capacity to improve health services for all Aboriginal communities across the North Coast.” Tracy Singleton CEO – Galambila Aboriginal Health Service.

“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.” Stephen Blunden – CEO Durri Aboriginal Corporation Medical Service.

“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.” Payden Samuelsson – CEO Bullinah Aboriginal Health Service.

“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.” Monika Wheeler – CEO, Healthy North Coast.

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 & 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

Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) and Aboriginal Medical Services (AMSs)

North Coast ACCHOs are the experts in Aboriginal health delivering holistic, comprehensive and culturally appropriate health care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the region. ACCHOs are at heart and by constitution Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community organisations.

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 NthNSW[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.

-ENDS-

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).