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

Contact for media enquiries

Orla Thompson

Phone: 0447 320 695

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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