02

Jul
2021

Community consultation shows COVID-19 impacts worse for some, but not all

With much of Australia under lockdown or restrictions, Healthy North Coast is reminding people of potential impacts on mental health and how to deal with pandemic pitfalls.

Healthy North Coast delivers the Australian Government’s PHN program from Tweed Heads to Port Macquarie and inland. The organisation recently partnered with 89 Degrees East to conduct a short online community consultation that attracted more than 1,000 respondents.

The survey responses showed the impact of lockdowns, isolation and social distancing on families, communities, friends and workplaces was a clear source of anxiety and loss for many.

Pleasingly though, a significant number of respondents reported their situations were unchanged, while a smaller percentage had even seen improvements, proving the old adage that every dark cloud has a silver lining.

69% reported their physical health stayed the same or improved, while the financial position of 73% was unchanged or better. On the work front, 69% said their situation was the same or better than before.

COVID-19 has had the greatest impact on connections with family and friends, with 63% rating them worse than before COVID and just 10% noting an improvement. Similarly, when asked about their lifestyle, 53% rated it worse, 34% said there was no change and 14% reported an improvement.

50% of respondents said their mental health was unchanged, 7% said it was better, but 43% reported a decline.

Healthy North Coast Chief Executive Julie Sturgess said familiar threads were woven through many responses from across the region.

‘People had a desire to travel and attend live music events,’ Ms Sturgess said. ‘They missed the liberties and freedoms once taken for granted and looked forward to having them restored. They also hoped for economic and social recovery.

‘COVID has affected us all in different ways but it’s heartening to see not everyone has suffered. I encourage those who are doing it toughest to seek support.’

When people were asked in the survey what they most looked forward to, typical comments included:

‘Freedom. To make personal choices and not have to check a government website to find out what is ok.’

‘Freedom to travel, attend concerts, hug my friends, see ageing parents.’

‘Seeing the hospitality, tourism and entertainment sectors recover as they have been a vital source of employment, especially for young people.’

The small daily annoyances grated on many, like one person who wrote: ‘I can’t wait to walk into work and not need my temperature checked.’

And a sentiment echoed by many: ‘Looking forward to improved health outcomes for all peoples of the world and those who have experienced COVID-19.’

Ms Sturgess said mental health support was just a phone call or a mouse click away. One of the services she recommends is Connect to Wellbeing.

‘Anyone young or old can find themselves in need of some help and guidance,’ she said. ‘Connect to Wellbeing offers a single point of contact to connect you with the right mental health support, information or a service that best suits your need.

‘Trained staff can provide you with information about, or referral to, the service that’s most appropriate for you. This includes any one of the many mental health, alcohol and other drugs, or NDIS support services located across the North Coast.’

To get in touch with Connect to Wellbeing, call 1300 160 339, Monday to Friday 8:30 am – 5:00 pm, or email [email protected]. For more information and to find out about available support, visit Connect to Wellbeing North Coast.

Ms Sturgess said there are things we can all do to contribute to positive mental health and wellbeing. These include getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, avoiding excessive use of alcohol or other drugs, eating a balanced diet, and maintaining social relationships.

Healthy North Coast funds Connect to Wellbeing through the North Coast PHN program. It is not a crisis service. For immediate 24/7 support contact:

  • Mental Health Access Line 1800 011 511
  • Lifeline 13 11 14
  • Beyond Blue 1300 224 636 
  • Kids Helpline (for children under 12 years) 1800 551 800 
  • Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
  • Open Arms (Veterans & Families Counselling) 1800 011 046
  • Mensline Australia 1300 789 978

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

Contact for media enquiries

Zoe Satherley (Mon-Wed)

Phone: 0428 623 093

Mike Hely (Wed-Fri)

Phone: 0437 978 473

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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