CEO Primary Matters – 3 November 2021

Vaccination update for western Victoria

Western Victoria continues to be among the leading regions in Australia for COVID-19 vaccinations. The four sub-regions of western Victoria have all pleasingly reached first dose rates above the 95% mark, with second dose rates not far behind at 88%. The vaccine roll-out in our region has been a tremendous effort and I extend my sincere congratulations to the primary healthcare providers in partnership with our health services and community for making these milestones happen.

In other vaccine-related news, the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer announced this week that COVID-19 Pfizer booster vaccinations are now available for anyone, six months after their second dose, regardless of their initial vaccine type. The booster will provide additional protection against COVID-19 and is not mandatory.

The booster doses will mean that GPs will continue to remain busy with vaccinations, concurrently with increasing community cases of COVID-19 as we again move towards COVID normal. Residential Aged Care will again have in-reach services provided through the Commonwealth and Western Victoria PHN (WVPHN) will again have a significant role its coordination.

Whilst we have reached very high vaccination levels across the western Victoria region, rates remain low amongst some vulnerable communities. WVPHN is continuing to work closely with public health units to offer vaccination to these remaining individuals.

Perinatal Mental Health Week

Between 7 November and 13 November, we recognise Perinatal Mental Health Week, a week to raise awareness of perinatal mental illness. The theme of Perinatal Mental Health Week 2021 is ‘Breaking Down Barriers’.

Adjusting to parenthood can be difficult, and the pandemic has created additional challenges for those welcoming a new baby into the world. Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) has experienced a 51% increase in callers to their helpline in the last 12 months and while this statistic seems startling, PANDA reminds us that this is positive stride as more families are reaching out for support and no longer trying to manage alone. However, with 1 in 5 news mums and 1 in 10 new dads experiencing perinatal anxiety and/or depression, this important week is a reminder that there is still work to be done break down barriers and progress the conversation around perinatal mental health.

For those with patients who are new or expectant parents, I encourage you to take a moment to check in and remind them and that support is available if needed. PANDA has an excellent range of resources on their website for expecting and new parents and their loved ones. The organisation also welcomes healthcare providers to join their Clinical Champions Network to help shape a better system of care for expecting and new parents. Find out more here.

Please also remember to visit the HealthPathways Perinatal Mental Health pages for information and resources.

AGM outcomes

Lastly, following our Annual General Meeting last week, it is my pleasure to give congratulations and a warm welcome to Dr Bernard Shiu who has joined the WVPHN Board.

Our Annual Report 2021 is now also available, providing an overview of our activities and achievements in helping deliver best practice primary health care to communities throughout western Victoria. Read the annual report here.

Rowena Clift

Chief Executive Officer

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