Leanne 2019 westvic news

Why suicide prevention is everyone’s responsibility

This week, we are acknowledging both World Suicide Prevention Day (10 September) and RUOK? Day (12 September).

According to the International Association of Suicide Prevention, more than 800 thousand people die by suicide each year. That represents one person every 40 seconds. Sadly, no community is immune, and suicide is also a significant cause of death within western Victoria.

This year Western Victoria Primary Health Network is investing more than $15m in programs to address mental ill health and support those living with mental illness in the community. This includes access to psychological therapy services and headspace services for young people at risk. These are available across all parts of western Victoria. 

In further recognition of the importance of tackling mental health needs, we are currently leading two Place-based Suicide Prevention Trials: one in Ballarat and the other in the Great South Coast region. Funded by the Victorian State Government, both trials bring together an impressive range of individuals and organisations to identify how they can collaboratively work to reduce the rate of deaths by suicide in their communities. These are critically important projects investigating existing services and support along with gaps in what is currently offered. Moreover, they are genuine, community-based efforts to integrate approaches and strengthen the collective impact to deliver real change.

While projects such as these are essential, they can only succeed if - as health professionals, individuals and a community – we recognise suicide prevention is a shared goal.  We all have responsibility to be mindful of our personal actions, responses and words.  Whether we are talking with patients, family, friends or work colleagues or posting on social media, we must be aware of how our comments can impact others.

At the same time, we must look to others and offer support if needed or requested. We should not judge. Likewise, if we ourselves are hurting, remember there are people around us we can turn to.  Finding the right person to talk with can make a real difference and people seeking help from their doctor is an important first step. 

The Suicide and Self Harm pages on HealthPathways are a valuable resource for doctors to use, which includes red flags, a hierarchy of screening questions and other steps to consider if a patient presents as high risk.

World Suicide Prevention Day and RUOK? Day are important opportunities for shining the light on mental health and suicide prevention and I encourage you to find out more. However, we must not forget that every day is suicide prevention day and every one of us has responsibility to help in whatever way we can.

I also encourage you to watch the video of Dr Amy Litras on our Facebook page. Dr Litras speaks about the first steps for supporting a loved one in distress and encourages the community to talk to their GP for important advice and support. 

- Lifeline 13 11 14

- beyondblue 1300 224 636

- Suicide Callback Service 1300 659 467

Dr Leanne Beagley
Chief Executive Officer 


New Rural Health Chapter of HealthPathways

STI Testing Week

Thunderstorm Asthma Update 

Melbourne Children’s GP Paediatric Update

Food and Mood Centre Workshop

TransfusEd Workshop for GPs: Anaemia in Primary Care


Ballarat Goldfields 

Rural and Regional Emergency Skills Workshop

After Hours Telehealth Pilot Launches at Hepburn Health Service

Geelong Otway

Call for Applications: 2020 Dr Trevor Banks Scholarship for Palliative Care

Family Violence Referral Pathways Forum for Health Workers

New Treatment Trial for Bipolar Depression

Great South Coast

Nurse Ambassador Program

Warrnambool Health and Safety Month Conference 2019

Wimmera Grampians 

Tulku Wan Winnin (Health To You) Van Launches in Wimmera Grampians Region


New Rural Health Chapter of HealthPathways

Western Victoria Primary Health Network (PHN) celebrated the launch of the first Rural Health chapter of HealthPathways in Australia at a networking evening at Baa 3400 Restaurant in Horsham on Wednesday 28 August.

The Growing Rural Health event was an opportunity for guests to learn more about what is available to help local farmers, to meet and network with other clinicians and health professionals and hear from special guest speaker, The Naked Farmer founder and St Helens Plains wheat grower, Ben Brooksby.  

Western Victoria PHN Chief Executive Officer, Dr Leanne Beagley, said the first ‘Rural Health’ chapter of HealthPathways in Australia had been developed by the Western Victoria PHN to support and improve the health of agricultural communities and farmer and provide clinicians with clear pathways for health care management and referral of issues specific to rural and farming regions. 

The new pathways include medical resources and advice to treat: 

  • Animal-related Injury and Illness
  • Chemical Exposure and Toxicity
  • Hay Fever
  • Heat Related Illness
  • Rural and Agricultural Health Assessment
  • Rural Community Support during Adversity
  • Snake and spider bites
  • Zoonoses

For further information, read the media release on our website.

STI Testing Week

This STI Testing Week, 8-14 September 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services is encouraging all Victorians to continue talking about STIs, to get tested and seek treatment. 

The last decade has seen record increases in STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis, here in Victoria and across Australia. For the first time since 2004, congenital syphilis has re-emerged in Victoria with two cases reported in 2017 and two cases reported in 2018, which included two foetal deaths

STI Testing Week – with the theme Talk, Test, Treat – is a timely reminder for anyone who is sexually active to take action to look after their own sexual health and help stop the spread of STIs.

Doctors, nurses and healthcare workers play a vital role in improving sexual health literacy and normalising STI testing in the community, including encouraging patients to look after their sexual health leading up to and during pregnancy. Healthcare workers can also support patients to notify sexual partners of possible exposures to an STI, if needed, through the 'Let Them Know' and Drama Down Under websites.

You can encourage your patients to speak honestly about their sexual history and behaviours, and help them manage and reduce these risks. You can also determine which tests to conduct and how often.

There are a number of resources to help health professionals integrate STI prevention, testing and treatment into routine patient care and build workforce capacity to improve timely STI management. The Victorian HIV and Hepatitis Integrated Training And Learning (VHHITAL) training program includes training on the diagnosis, treatment and management of STIs, particularly in at-risk populations. Delivered across Victoria, the VHHITAL STI training program includes STI testing, results and treatment, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV, clinical health pathways and partner management.

Thunderstorm Asthma Update 

Grass pollen season brings a seasonal increase in asthma and hay fever. It also brings the chance of epidemic thunderstorm asthma, which is thought to be triggered by a unique combination of high grass pollen levels and a certain type of thunderstorm with strong winds, causing a large number of people to develop asthma symptoms over a short period of time.

Epidemic thunderstorm asthma events don't happen every year but when they do, they happen during grass pollen season, which is normally from October through December. Data from thunderstorm asthma epidemics suggest that the risk of asthma triggered by the particular thunderstorm is highest in adults who are sensitised to grass pollen and have seasonal allergic rhinitis (with or without known asthma). The worst outcomes are seen in people with poorly controlled asthma.

The Victorian government has launched the 2019 public health campaign to ensure that all Victorians, and in particular people with asthma and/or hay fever, are as prepared as they can be should another epidemic thunderstorm asthma event occur. Community information is available on the Better Health Channel  or on the health.vic website and resources, including posters and brochures, are available here.

Doctors and pharmacists will see an increase in those with asthma or hay fever (seasonal allergic rhinitis) making appointments to review their current medication, update their asthma action plan/hay fever treatment plan and learn asthma first aid.

The Australian Asthma Handbook and a dedicated information paper on thunderstorm asthma is available from the National Asthma Council website. In addition, the RACGP, ACRRM, APNA and Pharmacy Guild have relevant educational materials available on each of their websites.

The epidemic thunderstorm asthma forecast will be issued throughout the grass pollen season from 1 October 2019 to 31 December 2019. You can access the forecast via the VicEmergency website or app, the Health.Vic website or the Melbourne Pollen website or app.

If you have further questions on thunderstorm asthma please call 1300 761 874 or email etsa@dhhs.vic.gov.au.

Melbourne Children’s GP Paediatric Update

The Melbourne Children's GP Paediatric Update (GPPU) will be held at The Royal Children’s Hospital on Saturday 12 October.

The GPPU program comprises interactive presentations and workshops from paediatric experts designed to update GPs on a number of paediatric issues relevant to general practice. For example, there will be updates on behaviour and development, enuresis and an expert panel to discuss allergies, eczema and anaphylaxis. The GPPU is run and coordinated by the Department of Paediatrics, The University of Melbourne. 

Early Bird prices are $220.54 for GPs and $174.24 for Trainees, Nurses, Allied Health and Practice Managers until 15 September. Full price is $255.19 GP and $208.99 Trainee.

Register here. For enquiries, please contact gp-pu@unimelb.edu.au

Food and Mood Centre Workshop

The Food & Mood Centre is running a one-day workshop to provide foundational knowledge and skills in the field of Nutritional Psychiatry and address what is known regarding the links between diet, gut health, and mental and brain health on 3 October in Melbourne.

The Food & Mood Centre is part of Deakin University’s School of Medicine in Australia and is the only research centre of its kind worldwide focusing on Nutritional Psychiatry research which investigates how what we eat influences brain, mood and mental health. It comprises a large team of leading researchers and clinicians working to identify new dietary prevention strategies and treatments for mental disorders.

Intended for health practitioners, including general practitioners, psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, allied health practitioners, but also of interest to members of the public, this workshop will upskill practitioners in incorporating nutrition into the prevention and treatment mental and brain disorders.

This workshop is accredited through the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, and will provide its members 30 PRDP PDP points.

The workshop will be held on Thursday 3 October from 9.00am – 4.30pm at Deakin Downtown, Level 12, Tower, 727 Collins Street, Melbourne. For more information or to register visit Eventbrite here.

TransfusEd Workshop for GPs: Anaemia in Primary Care

Australian Red Cross Blood Service is running the TranfusEd Workshop on 12 October in Melbourne which aims to provide general practitioners and practice nurses with an update on anaemia and iron deficiency in primary care.

Participants will be provided with tools to enable them to:

  • identify patients with iron deficiency and anaemia and determine underlying pathology;
  • interpret laboratory investigations to diagnose iron deficiency and anaemia;
  • apply the principles of prescribing and administering iron therapy in practice with a focus on patient blood management; and
  • incorporate the use of practical tools such as algorithms for anaemia and patient handouts to guide treatment for iron deficiency and anaemia.

The workshop will be interactive with case studies, expert input, clinical tools and more.

This activity (162212) has been accredited for 40 Category 1 points in the RACGP QI&CPD 2017–2019 Triennium. This activity (162220) has been accredited for 12 Category 2 points in the RACGP QI&CPD 2017–2019 Triennium.

Cost is $150. Register online here or see the full program here. Registrations close 30 September.

  HealthPathways Update


New Pages

  •  Marfan Syndrome

Reviewed Pages

  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Kidneys and Diabetes
  • Non-acute Vascular Surgery Assessment (>24 hours)
  • Carotid Artery Stenosis
  • Stroke
  • Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH)

To stay up to date on recent, locally agreed guidelines see HealthPathways.  

In other HealthPathways news, Western Victoria PHN is delighted to announce the appointment of Cara Miller as the new HealthPathways Program Lead.

Cara is an existing and respected member of the Western Victoria PHN HealthPathways team along with the wider HealthPathways community.

Over past weeks, Cara has been the Acting Program Lead. In that time, she has shown great skill in guiding a number of significant HealthPathways projects, including the first Rural Health chapter of HealthPathways in Australia

Ballarat Goldfields

Rural and Regional Emergency Skills Workshop

Western Victoria PHN, in collaboration with the Department of Health’s Emergency Medicine Education training (EMET) program, held a Rural and Regional Emergency Skills Workshop in Ballarat on Saturday 31 August.

The day brought together 29 doctors, nurses and registrars among others for a series of six workshops aimed at refreshing skills that may have only been used sparingly since university. 

Dealing with Paediatric emergencies, musculoskeletal injuries, burns and eye emergencies are a daily task for physicians at Ballarat Health Services. But for those doctors and registered nurses living in rural communities, it’s not something they are likely to see every day.

EMET Clinical Nurse Education and Project Support Officer, Mel White, said the workshop was based around giving practitioners that work in urgent care a chance to go through general skills, which they already have, but in a more comfortable environment. The workshop was hands-on and focused on participants getting up and practicing.

The six workshops included plastering, ophthalmology, burns, musculoskeletal injuries and minor fracture management, paediatric emergencies and basic life support.

The next workshop will be held in Stawell on Saturday 26 October and registrations are open. For further information please click here

After Hours Telehealth Pilot Launches at Hepburn Health Service

Specialist emergency doctors will now be available at Hepburn Health Service during the after hours period, thanks to a new telehealth pilot being delivered by Western Victoria Primary Health Network (PHN) and My Emergency Dr (MED).

The new After Hours Telehealth Pilot has been launched across several Urgent Care Centre’s (UCC) in the Western Victoria PHN region. The pilot at Hepburn Health Service’s UCC commenced on Monday 2 September 2019 and will run until 28 August 2020.

The video-call based service will be used by Urgent Care Centre medical staff in the after hours period via the MED App on a smart phone or tablet, which gives immediate access to a team of Emergency Specialists who can remotely access, diagnose and arrange treatment for patients.

Hepburn Health Service has also commenced its After Hours Sub Regional Engagement Project. This involves coordination of sponsored Rural and Isolated Practice Endorsed Registered Nurse (RIPERN) places within the Ballarat Goldfields region and increased access to education and support resources.

Read the full media release here.

Geelong Otway

Call for Applications: 2020 Dr Trevor Banks Scholarship for Palliative Care

Western Victoria Primary Health Network, in conjunction with Hospice Foundation Geelong, is seeking applications from Geelong region general practitioners for the 2020 Dr Trevor Banks Scholarship for Palliative Care.

The annual scholarship awards up to $5,000 to help Geelong region GPs attend national or international educational events related to palliative care.

Eligible applications are being sought from GPs or GP trainees working in Geelong, the Bellarine Peninsula or Surf Coast, preferably with a long-term commitment to continuing their work in the region. Their current practice should include provision of care to people with palliative care needs.

The maximum scholarship payment to any individual doctor is $10,000 during any 10-year period.

For further information and to apply, visit the Western Victoria PHN website. Applications close Monday, 30 September 2019.

Family Violence Referral Pathways Forum for Health Workers

Dr Sally Cockburn (aka Dr Feelgood) will host a panel with representatives from local and regional support services at the Family Violence Referral Pathways Forum for Health Workers on Thursday 26 September in Geelong

The panel will explore a family violence case study from initial presentation at a health service through to accessing family violence support. There will be representatives from an array of services such as The Orange Door, Victoria Police, BCYF, Bethany and many more.

The forum will be held at Barwon Health on Thursday 26 September. Register here or view the flyer for further information.

Note: Completion of Module One: Family Violence: A Shared Understanding is recommended prior to attending the forum. Barwon Health staff please log in to Grow and complete Module One: Family Violence – A Shared Understanding. For non Barwon Health staff please copy and paste the link into YouTube through Google Chrome here.  

New Treatment Trial for Bipolar Depression


Do you have patients with Bipolar Disorder and are looking for something to add to their treatment?

Deakin University and Barwon Health are conducting a preliminary study of the effectiveness of the Mangosteen fruit extract for people with Bipolar Depression.

Participants will be required to take capsules that may or may not include the mangosteen fruit extract for a period of 24 weeks, in addition to continuing their usual treatment. The substance is not expected to have any unwanted side effects and will be received free of charge at each monthly visit.

For further details, please contact 0402 196 595, visit the website or view the poster here.

Great South Coast

Nurse Ambassador Program

Cancer Council Victoria's Nurse Ambassador Program is seeking practice nurses who are looking to broaden their scope of practice to include cancer screening and prevention activities across their whole organisation with the next workshop to be held in Warrnambool on 22 and 31 October 2019.

Nurses will be recognised as ‘Cancer Screening Ambassadors’ after completing a two-day practical and interactive workshop.

If you would like to attend the Warrnambool workshop in October, please complete the application form and email it to Sophie Thompson (Primary Care Coordinator) by Friday 11 October 2019.

For further information visit the website.

Please note: attendance at both days is required to become a Cancer Screening Ambassador. Successful applicants will be notified within a few days of submitting their form by receiving a registration email.

Warrnambool Health and Safety Month Conference 2019

Health and Safety Month is held in October each year and is the time to discuss safety in your workplace. WorkSafe is holding a Health & Safety Month Conference in Warrnambool on 3 October. 

Come along to the conference to hear the latest from the industry experts who lead the way in drugs and alcohol and mental health disciplines in the workforce.

Topics include:

  • Drugs and alcohol in the workplace
  • Preventing mental injury in the workplace

The conference will be held on Thursday 3 October from 9.30am – 1.00pm at Lighthouse Theatre Warrnambool Studio, Level 1, 185 Timor Street. Register here.

Wimmera Grampians

Tulku Wan Winnin (Health To You) Van Launches in Wimmera Grampians Region

Budja Budja Medical Clinic at the foothills of Gariwerd (the Grampians) has commenced health services from its Tulku Wan Winnin (Health To You) Van, in collaboration with Western Victoria PHN, which will travel and provide services to Ararat, Stawell, St Arnaud, Maryborough, Avoca and surrounds.

The van has a private examination area, seating for patients and staff, a fridge and a satellite dish for remote communications. The service is available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders of any age. 

Services are all free/bulk billed and include general health, chronic disease, and social and emotional wellbeing support. Allied health services are also involved and the van can visit patients in their homes, at schools or at community centres. It will also be available for community events.

This is a great initiative to make a difference in the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our community in a culturally safe environment.