CEO Primary Matters – 7 October 2020

Budget 2020-21

The Federal Government has announced its Budget for 2020-21, with a four-year investment of $467 billion allocated to the health sector, up $32 billion over last year’s Budget.
Here are some highlights:

  • $115.5 billion in health investment in 2020–21, up $11.5 billion on last year’s Budget
    • More than $16 billion for the pandemic health response
  • Medicare investment of $119.3 billion over the forward estimates, up $6 billion
    • $2.4 billion total investment in telehealth
  • $5.7 billion for mental health
    • Doubling of support under Better Access, from 10 to 20 Medicare-funded psychological services
  • $4 billion in Indigenous health funding over the coming four years
  • Funding for aged care boosted to $23.9 billion, up $2.2 billion
    • Includes $1.6 billion for 23,000 additional home care packages
  • $50.3 million to build on, and expand, the Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training (RHMT) Program

These investments will help the primary health care sector continue the fight against COVID-19, with a focus on supporting our community’s mental health needs, while strengthening the four pillars of the Long Term National Health Plan. For a more extensive breakdown of the Budget’s health investments, please see Minister Hunt’s press release.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It provides an opportunity for all of us – not only women – to focus on breast screening, cancer and its impact on those affected by the disease in our community.

Survival rates continue to improve in Australia with 89 out of every 100 women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer now surviving five or more years beyond diagnosis.

However, breast cancer screening rates across western Victoria are unfortunately below the Victorian average (Western Victoria PHN (WVPHN): 50.5% / Victoria: 54.6% – Breast screening participation (%), female aged 50 to 69 years – PHIDU, 2013 to 2014)

So whether you are a primary care provider or a friend please remind your female patients, friends or colleagues about breast screening especially during the months of October.

What WVPHN is doing to increase cancer screening

WVPHN is building on the work we achieved through the Community-led Cancer Screening Program and remains focussed on supporting primary health services to improve screening participation in the three national screening programs: bowel, breast and cervical by considering population needs, improving processes and building on community engagement with hard to reach community members.

We have recently begun taking Expressions of Interest (EOI) for a cancer screening quality improvement grant, in selected LGAs of low participation rates. The EOI is for six of our general practice clinics in under-screened areas to undertake a project increasing participation in the three national screening programs, with a focus on telehealth, self-collection CST and community engagement through social media.

WVPHN also offers a cancer screening Quality Improvement Toolkit which is available on our website, as well as a range of cancer support resources to support primary health care practitioners and patients, including Optimal Care Pathways and a consumer resource on care plans for patients living with cancer – a guide for the patient on what a GP Management Plan is.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Cancer Screening Rates

BreastScreen Victoria’s screening program did temporarily pause as the pandemic took hold  however services are now operating again.   People are being encouraged to see their GP if they have any symptoms and the messages are being spread that it is safe to do so.

In response to this, the Continuity of Care Collaboration (CCC) (a group of over 40 healthcare organisations that came together after a 40 per cent drop in pathology testing was seen at the start of the pandemic in Australia) have created the #DontWaitMate campaign. As the hashtag suggests, the Don’t Wait Mate campaign is all about reminding us to not put off seeing the GP and to encourage our loved ones to do the same.

We encourage you to watch and share the following videos with your social media networks using the #DontWaitMate tag: #DontWaitMate – the Continuity of Care Collaboration and #DontWaitMate – Patient Voices. Please spread the word within your organisation and with your patients.

World Mental Health Day

This coming Saturday 10 October is World Mental Health Day. 2020 has been a challenging year for many Australians, many if not all of us are continuing to learn new ways of coping with this new ‘normal’, and may do so for many months to come. Mental health issues don’t discriminate. Many people in our region may have never experienced mental ill-health before and are facing new challenges due to COVID-19.

As a result, WVPHN partnered with the five other Victorian PHNs and the Federal Government to set up the HeadtoHelp service. We have a hub situated in Geelong and the other in Ballarat, but the service is available to all western Victorians by simply calling 1800 595 212 between 8.30am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. Those calling 1800 595 212 will be triaged by a mental health professional to determine the most appropriate service for them. This could include visiting a HeadtoHelp clinic, accessing appropriate digital supports or being connected with more intensive support, depending on their needs.


Take care and stay safe.

Rowena Clift

Chief Executive Officer


If you, or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 000, visit your nearest hospital emergency or use any of the crisis helplines:

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