CEO Primary Matters – 18 November 2020

Catching Up

Though restrictions have eased and we, incredibly, have reached 19 consecutive double-donut days, we still have a way to go in bringing our community back into general practice to prevent continued deferral of care. According to RACGP’s General Practice: Health of a Nation report, Australian GPs have found the inability to deliver usual care to their patients as the greatest challenge this year.

We at Western Victoria PHN (WVPHN) are supporting the Federal Government’s fast-tracking of electronic prescribing, with an Electronic Prescriptions Update for Pharmacies webinar coming up on 10 December 2020, and a webinar for prescribers planned for February 2020. This technology will break down even more barriers to patients receiving the care they need, when they need it.

Despite the increase in deferred care and concern earlier in the year that immunisation rates too would decline, childhood immunisation coverage rates for the September quarter have shown a reassuring continuation of western Victorian childrens’ health being maintained as a priority:

  • 12-<15 months: 96.53 per cent of all children (second-highest national rate); 97.25 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (third-highest national rate)
  • 24-<27 months: 95.41 per cent of all children (highest); 94.49 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (third-highest)
  • 60-<63 months: 97.04 per cent of all children (second-highest); 98.86 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (highest)

We will be closely monitoring these rates over the coming months and WVPHN will continue to support practices to ensure our communities are up to date with their immunisations.

Today, the World Health Organisation launched its strategy for the global elimination of cervical cancer which is projected to save 62 million lives globally over the next century. We can play a small role in this.

However, with data consistently saying that there has been a decline in new cancer detections and pathology notifications, referrals to higher care have become as urgent as ever, especially cancer screening and for those with comorbidities. We must continue to remind our community that it continues to be safe to #SeeYourGP. We will work closely with our health service colleagues to address these issues and ensure our communities have timely access to care.

Referring to HeadtoHelp Services

With the two HeadtoHelp mental health hubs now operating for a couple of months in North Geelong (Barwon Health North) and in Ballarat (Ballarat
Community Health, Sebastopol), it is important for GPs and all other mental health referrers to familiarise themselves with how the service works and how to refer to it.

The HeadtoHelp service provides ‘warm’ navigation and transition to services that resonate with the level of care a person is seeking in the region they live. When a service is not readily apparent, HeadtoHelp services provide immediate support and help coordinate the level of care according to need. The important first step is to phone  1800 595 212.

Please see the WVPHN HeadtoHelp FAQs for GPs document for the information you need to utilise the service.

White Ribbon Day and Preventing Family and Domestic Violence

This Friday is the annual White Ribbon Day 2020, which raises awareness and commitment to action to prevent men’s violence against women.

WVPHN has recently embarked on a new Family and Domestic Violence Pilot Project dedicated to strengthening the response of the primary care and community services sectors for early identification and support of clients who are at risk of or are experiencing family violence.  A specific target group identified as requiring support is recently separated families, with research suggesting this support is most effective in preventing family violence when provided in the first 180 days post-separation. The pilot focuses on the LGAs of Rural City of Horsham, Central Goldfields Shire (Maryborough), Northern Grampians Shire (Stawell and St Arnaud) and Warrnambool City Council.

I look forward to seeing how this project will make western Victorian families safer.

Take care and stay safe.


Rowena Clift

Chief Executive Officer

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