Healthy North Coast announces appointment of new Chief Executive

Healthy North Coast, which delivers the Australian Government’s Primary Health Network program in our region, announces Monika Wheeler’s appointment as their new Chief Executive.

Ms Wheeler brings 20 years of experience working in primary healthcare and social policy across the local, state, and national levels of government and the not-for-profit sector. Some of these roles have been at Healthy North Coast, the NSW Ministry of Health, as a Policy Adviser to Australian Government Minister Tanya Plibersek MP, and with the United Nations.

Dr Adrian Gilliland, Independent Chair of Healthy North Coast, said the Board was delighted with the decision and opportunity to make this announcement before the end of the year.

'Monika has been in the acting role since former Chief Executive Julie Sturgess' departure in September this year. The Board would like to thank Julie for her work. She 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. 'Monika has continued the journey to enhance Healthy North Coast as a Primary Health Network recognised for its innovation, collaboration with other agencies and ability to get things done,' said Dr Gilliland.

‘Monika has spent almost ten years at Healthy North Coast, the last four as the Executive Director for Wellness. Her appointment to Chief Executive will undoubtedly further strengthen the organisation’s position as a leader in regional primary health,’ added Dr Gilliland.

‘Primary health care is at a critical juncture. A growing ageing population is increasing the demand placed on our healthcare system and workforce. The impact of climate change on our health and wellbeing is and will continue to be experienced locally. And the slower uptake of digital connectivity in the health sector has held us back in advancing a connected health system experience.

‘We need to remain focused on preventative and primary care — every dollar spent in primary and preventative health is worth two dollars in hospital services for long-term health outcomes,’ said Dr Gilliland.

‘Monika brings an impressive level of strategic and operational knowledge and experience. She is committed to working collaboratively with local partners and stakeholders and to ensuring North Coast community voices are at the centre of decision-making. These are key principles for supporting value-based primary care that is easy to access and delivers better health outcomes in our region,' added Dr Gilliland.

Born in Lismore, where she also went to school, Ms Wheeler expressed gratitude for the efforts of recent times. As the new Chief Executive for Healthy North Coast, she looks forward to continuing to work with the Board, staff, GPs, nurses, allied health professionals, Aboriginal medical services, local health districts and other key stakeholders to improve health outcomes for North Coast communities.

‘Our region has sustained huge pressure, particularly in the last four years, with multiple natural disasters and COVID. Our primary care workforce has risen to the challenge of supporting our communities. Service providers have worked tirelessly to keep people healthy in the community and, where possible, to avoid the need for hospital care,’ said Ms Wheeler.

‘The North Coast is expected to see our ageing population continue to grow. Nearly one in three North Coast residents is expected to be 65 years or older in the next ten years – twice the NSW and national averages. We must create a future-ready health system that is able to meet this growing demand,’ said Ms Wheeler.

‘We need to make health services easier to access, empower the community to make healthier lifestyle choices and reduce the burden of chronic illness. Healthy North Coast is well-placed to drive these changes in collaboration with GPs, allied health professionals and other stakeholders. I look forward to building on the achievements of recent years and to supporting the next phase of our strategic focus,’ said Ms Wheeler.

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