CEO Primary Matters – 1 July 2020

Celebrating Western Victoria PHN’s Five Year Anniversary

As 1 July 2020 is the official five year anniversary of Western Victoria PHN (WVPHN), it is important to reflect on how the organisation has positioned itself to best support general practice, commissioning or supporting locally-needed services and integrating local services and systems to ensure that our western Victorian community receives the right care, in the right place, at the right time.

I wanted to highlight some of the areas in which we have achieved this:

High risk prescription medications

WVPHN played a large role in the push to deliver better high risk prescription medications monitoring systems to reduce the harm of opioid misuse in the community. SafeScript launched in western Victoria on 1 October 2018, becoming mandatory on 1 April 2020. WVPHN coordinated training, in partnership with all Victorian PHNs, across Victoria for GPs and pharmacists to ensure the dispensing of these high risk prescription medicines is monitored through the SafeScript.

COVID-19 response

    • The WVPHN HealthPathways site has led the way in providing up-to-date, localised clinical advice for health care professionals in managing COVID-19, developing a large list of clinical support pages in response to the pandemic. This work has been truly remarkable.
    • A rolling ‘Health Alert – COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus 2019)‘ webpage, where the most important, urgent clinical support information is frequently updated so that our primary health workforce can remain updated with the pandemic.
    • We have distributed over 160,000 surgical and P2 masks to western Victorian primary health practices and pharmacies in response to COVID-19.
    • We set up online communities of practice (CoPs) for each of our sub-regions to enable GPs to network with each other and to share information about region-specific issues, responses, strategies and supports with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Initiated the Project ECHO COVID-19 sessions to help connect local health practitioners with relevant experts and improve the flow of information and knowledge to support wider efforts to better understand and manage the current pandemic.

Mental Health Care

Delivering quality and accessible primary mental health care is an important responsibility for WVPHN.  We have done this by commissioning headspace centres throughout our region (Ballarat, Geelong, Horsham, Portland and Warrnambool), taking a lead role in developing suicide prevention initiatives (Ballarat Suicide Prevention Trial, Great South Coast Suicide Prevention Trial and the recently announced development of a Geelong Place-based Suicide Prevention Initiative) and commissioning psychological therapy services for people experiencing mild to moderate mental illness and those who have attempted, or are at risk of, suicide or self-harm.

Childhood Immunisation

Western Victoria boasts some of the highest childhood immunisation coverage rates in Australia thanks to the dedication of our immunisers and the wider primary health care community, as evident in the most recent quarterly coverage rates from December 2019 and March 2020. Our children are our future, so we must continue to push towards a 100 per cent childhood immunisation coverage.

Doctors in Secondary Schools

The Doctors in Secondary Schools program has been running in western Victoria since 2017 with thirteen schools in our region now providing students with access to a GP or registered nurse at least one day a week. Local GPs and nurses are now managing 42 in-school clinics each month with an average of 300 attendances a month across our region. Importantly, two-thirds of those attendances are from students who had previously seen either the GP or nurse.

Telehealth (MyEmergencyDr pilots)

WVPHN has long been an advocate for the utilisation of telehealth as an effective alternative to face-to-face consultations between primary care clinicians and clients. In addition to our Digital Health team working tirelessly to ensure primary care practices have access to the technology to deliver such services, we have also used telehealth to deliver the Project ECHO Persistent Pain and Project ECHO COVID-19 series. These teleECHO sessions have allowed multiple primary care clinicians with inter-disciplinary specialist teams to share their knowledge via case-based learning, enabling primary care clinicians to treat patients with complex conditions in their own communities.

Additionally, nine health service urgent care centres in western Victoria are participating in the After Hours Telehealth Pilot, delivered by WVPHN and My Emergency Dr to improve access to health services, with a focus rural and remote areas. Each centre uses My Emergency Dr to give health care teams direct access to specialist advice after hours.

The Next Phase

We start the next five years of the WVPHN journey in a situation none would have foreseen happening five years ago. The coronavirus pandemic has granted us the opportunity to support our region’s primary health care sector more than ever before, and we can only look forward to taking this partnership even further as we continue build and strengthen a healthier community.

The development of our new strategic plan will guide this.

Stay tuned.


Rowena Clift

Chief Executive Officer

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