New primary health service launched

Proud: Gippsland Public Health Network (Gippsland PHN) launched their new service model last Thursday. Pictured is Latrobe Community Health Services chief executive Ben Leigh, Gippsland PHN acting chief executive Angela Jacob, LCHS executive director of primary health Andrina Romano and LCHS manager of Paediatric and Youth Hub Selina Northover. Photograph Zaida Glibanovic



CENTRALISED, convenient and accessible is what the Gippsland Primary Health Network (Gippsland PHN) aims to be.

Last Thursday, July 13, Gippsland PHN launched its new primary healthcare services designed by the people and for the people who use them.

The room had a celebratory feel as years of hard work came to fruition with the public launch of the new Gippsland PHN services.

The pilot program is a Gippsland-first, and is integrated as a part of the federal government’s primary health care reform.

The new service will now make accessing primary health services more continent as social and health services will operate out of the Churchill Latrobe Community Health Service (LCHS) building.

This module facilitates collaboration between staff and fields, allowing for a catered needs approach, means people accessing the services will be able to save time and energy.

Gippsland PHN acting chief executive officer Angela Jacob said the service is about providing people with what they want.

“What’s so unique about it is that it’s been designed by the community and with lots of consultation, from also health professionals and members of the community,” she said.

In a Gippsland-wide and extensive consultation process that included workshops, surveys and real-life engagement, people were asked what good health care looked like to them.

In addition to turning to the community, Gippsland PHN also took on the views of many other key stakeholders including, general practitioners, nurses allied health professionals, pharmacists, community health, health advocacy groups, health assemblies, ambulance and hospital staff to get holistic and extensive views.

“Told us about what they feel they needed in terms of local health care,” Ms Jacob said.

Key feedback from the Gippsland PHN Health Needs Assessment 2022-2025 also found consumers wanted improved access to more coordinated approaches to healthcare, which includes health professionals working together as a team to better address their multiple needs.

“They’ve told us they want to access healthcare in one place where health professionals can work as a team and where they don’t have to tell their story multiple times,” Ms Jacob said.

Respondents from the consultation said they wanted regular and affordable access to healthcare nearby, a one-stop shop where you only have to tell your story once, desired to be heard and respected, preventative measures and collaborative approaches.

In response to the feedback, the service model was designed to include a care coordinator at the centre, organising multiple appointments and coordinating care across health services, health professionals, community organisations and social services.

“This program is in alignment with the Australian government primary care reforms, and we’re trying to provide some innovation which better fits what the community wants. So it’s a place-based solution,” the Gippsland PHN chief executive said.

The pilot service will be rolled out in the Latrobe Valley and East Gippsland for two years, with evaluation and the added potential to extend the program over other Gippsland local government areas in the future.

“The Gippsland PHN has a separate grant that we received through the federal government to evaluate this model of care, so we’ll be working with the services and collecting data and information and feedback from the clients who use the services,” Ms Jacob said.

The evaluation will with a “view to demonstrate the impact that the services have and also provide the evidence for a model that could be scaled and rolled out in other communities,” she said.

The Latrobe Valley will specialise as a care hub for disadvantaged children and families.

According to the Gippsland PHN, the Valley has high rates of social and economic deprivation, where there continues to be a cycle with the vulnerabilities of the youngest in the community continue to affect them throughout their lives.

LCHS Manager Paediatric and Youth Hub, Selina Northover, said this new program would be a great way to provide an integrated approach to health and welfare services.

Based in Churchill, this innovative clinic will be an integrated health and welfare service model for vulnerable children and families in Latrobe.

LCHS will work closely with Berry Street to deliver the service. When a person visits the hub, the first meeting will be with a care coordinator and social service navigator, who will coordinate healthcare, social services and even transport needs.

Ms Northover explained that LCHS and Berry Street, having already worked closely together, will put them under the same roof to provide the best sort of care to its service users through the program.

“People will come in, and they’ll see someone from both Berry Street and LCHS, and then their goals will be discussed with them – we will work from there – to linking them to services they need to meet those goals,” she said.

“We (the two service providers) experience similar yet slightly different issues in that post-COVID, we are getting in many more complex families coming in for health care, but we know they are not following through in what they need health-wise because of their social welfare issues,” Ms Northover explained.

Ms Northover added that Berry Street experienced the same issue but in vice versa when it comes to social wellbeing.

“Hopefully, as we grow and get more established, we might be able to get more services on board that would assist with families and children,” Ms Northover added.

East Gippsland’s model will specialise in providing first-rate care to remote communities by setting up service hubs in local areas.

These hubs will eliminate the four-hour round trip to Bairnsdale or eight to Melbourne by providing premium access to care coordinators, who will visit those with chronic health conditions to support, monitor and evaluate their symptoms.

The care coordinators will also be able to connect patients from their homes to specialists through telehealth and through tools like Microsoft Hololens, a technological lens that provides augmented reality to help specialists diagnose and treat over the internet connection.

Many stakeholders came to witness the launch last Thursday, including Member for Morwell Martin Cameron, East Gippsland Deputy Mayor Councillor Arthur Allen and Latrobe City Councillor Tracie Lund.

Cr Lund spoke of how proud council was in supporting ground-breaking initiatives such as Gippsland PHN’s placed-based work.

“I think this is a remarkable initiative that will have a huge impact in our community, one of the things we know when we’re talking to people and when we’re providing care is it doesn’t always connect well, and there can be barriers around access,” Cr Lund said.

“We’re extremely proud to be out here supporting these great initiatives that will be a game changer for many people in our community.”

The new initiative began at the start of the month, but is currently in an establishment period that will last a few months.

LCHS has already hired three new staff to prepare for the new program, and will get underway as soon as the groundwork is founded.