15

Feb
2024

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional info:

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

Contact for media enquiries

Sam Brunning

Phone: 0439 968 437

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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