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.


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