In writing this year’s report I want to start with quotes from two of our PHN staff:
“I believe 2020 was the year that we learnt how to work differently & discovered how truly resilient human beings can be. No one had experienced these working conditions before”
“Things changed so quickly. Information that was correct at 9am was now obsolete at 1pm. I think we have all learnt that there is no normal anymore; we can work under many different circumstances and offer support in many ways.”
Both these quotes fully encapsulate the enormous challenges that our PHN faced in the past year, but they also highlight the positivity and flexibility that our staff have embraced to meet these challenges.
To identify opportunities for learning from the past year of operating in a pandemic, our PHN undertook an examination of our internal COVID-19 response. “Navigating the Pandemic: Lessons learnt in 2020 for our PHN” was an internal report we produced which has allowed us to reflect on our areas of success and to identify opportunities for improvement.
What clearly emerged from the report was the agility of our PHN and our ability to provide localised support and advice to suit local conditions. Our well-established relationships with frontline providers enabled us to gain knowledge at a granular level so we could better understand the impacts of COVID-19 on our local communities and help ameliorate them.
We have been able to translate national and state approaches to the pandemic into effective and timely localised solutions. The COVID-19 pandemic provided clear evidence that Primary Health Networks play a crucial role in the primary care sector and the broader health system.
The key areas of pandemic response work undertaken by our PHN over the past year included:
- Rapid distribution of Personal Protective Equipment
- Establishment of Community Respiratory Clinics (testing)
- Comprehensive information and education campaigns
- Development of clinical Health Pathways
- Focused general support across General Practice, Aboriginal Medical Services, Commissioned
- Services, Allied Health and supporting General Practice into Aged Care.
Of course, while COVID has remained front and centre, our PHN, like the primary care clinicians we support has had to continue to deliver the business as usual activities that form a part of day-to-day operations.
One of the key highlights for the year was the opportunity to connect with and celebrate the many diverse achievements of frontline primary care providers at our very first Primary Care Quality and Innovation Awards which were held in June in Newcastle.
It was especially gratifying to witness at the awards how some many primary care providers developed and instilled a culture of innovation which provided them with the flexibility to pivot so successfully to meet the challenges of COVID.
Finally, I would like to thank all of those who have helped us in our achievements this year. Our dedicated staff, our Board of Directors, the clinicians, and the practice staff who continue to deliver quality care to our communities, our service providers for their support and our Local Health Districts.
Thank you to all these people and the many other partners that are helping us to create healthier communities across our region.