It is a privilege to present our 2021-2022 annual report profiling the seventh year of operation of the Hunter New England and Central Coast PHN.
Whilst it has been another year navigating uncertain times marked by the changing landscape of COVID-19 and the challenges of multiple floods, I am continually heartened by the resilience displayed by primary care providers across the region, as well as by the efforts of the PHN team.
It is timely in this year’s report to reflect and celebrate Innovation and Impact across our PHN activities. Innovation is embedded in our philosophy, values and strategy, and the Innovation timeline included in this report highlights just some of the notable achievements undertaken by the PHN since 2015. The timeline is accompanied by stories that showcase our achievements and impact in 2021-2022.
In this year’s Covid Impact Survey, primary care clinicians reported that their two areas of most concern were the emotional and mental health of primary care workers, and management of chronic health conditions. These results were unsurprising. Workforce shortages and pressures, driven by a range of factors, created a perfect storm for GP burnout and fatigue. The PHN has found itself increasingly addressing workforce issues, including through the successful implementation of several incentive schemes to recruit GPs to our region. In the past 12 months, our incentives have supported the recruitment of 27 new GPs to the region.
Similarly, we know that with lockdowns and isolation came a dramatic decline in health screening and chronic disease management. We expect that the impact of this will be seen in years to come, and we are supporting primary care to address rebuild in this area. On a positive note, it’s excellent to see the uptake of telehealth and other digital tools. The PHN has invested $1,000,000 over the past 12 months to provide 200 general practices, allied health practices and residential aged care facilities with $5,000 digital health grants. These grants have gone a long way to improving general digital health capabilities.
In the midst of the ongoing challenges this year presented our teams identified a number of exciting opportunities which resulted in flagship projects and activities such as the inaugural Allied Health Conference #WeCareTogether which saw 15 of the region’s allied health professionals showcasing a variety of informative topics to a large and broad audience.
This and other stories of our innovation and impact are shared in this report and demonstrate our agility and adaptability in the face of change.
Throughout the year, our engagement with our people and communities has seen a record number of health professionals participating in educational events along with surveys and our Peoplebank consultations. This engagement lies at the heart of the successful delivery of our vison for Healthy People and Healthy Communities.
At this year’s annual general meeting we farewell the PHN’s inaugural Chairperson, Jane Schwager AO, as her seven-year tenure comes to an end.
Jane’s pragmatic and driven approach has led us through some challenging times, including the pandemic, and she leaves us in great shape. The PHN Board and Executive have always felt fully supported by Jane. As CEO, I’ve greatly appreciated the way she has kept the Board looking up and out and always focusing on innovation. Jane has been an excellent leader, an excellent mentor and an excellent friend and we thank her for the significant contribution she has made to the PHN.
We also farewell two of our Directors, Dr Grahame Deane AM and Graham McGuinness OAM. Both Directors have been on the Board since the PHN’s foundation in 2015. We thank them for their advice and friendship and wish them all the very best for their next endeavours.