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Quality care and innovation celebrated at annual PHN awards

A digital health platform delivering therapeutic support in remote areas, a first-of-its-kind rehabilitation centre for women, and a program providing support to separated fathers are among the recipients of the 2023 Primary Care Quality and Innovation Awards.

Presented in front of a full house on Friday 23 June at Newcastle City Hall, the Awards brought together a diverse range of primary care providers, professionals, and practices from across the sector. The event also inducted the latest Dedication to Service Award winners into the Hall of Fame.

CEO of the Hunter New England and Central Coast Primary Health Network, Richard Nankervis, said it was a great night celebrating the achievements of the worthy award recipients and finalists.

“The Awards is the flagship annual event for the PHN and a wonderful opportunity for our community to come together to showcase the quality services and innovative practices happening every day across our network.”

“It’s an important celebration of the role of primary care providers and thank them for the value they add to the people living in the Hunter, New England and Central Coast regions.”

Patients First Award

Awarded to healthcare organisations and/or service providers that put people and communities first in their practice: they demonstrate engagement strategies to support best practice outcomes for the centre, the community, and their patients.

Umina Podiatry

From HOTS to POTS. After meeting the Health On The Streets (HOTS) team at the PHN-hosted #WeCareTogether Allied Health Conference, Dwight Bilson (owner at Umina Podiatry) was keen to help. Podiatry On The Street (POTS) is the initiative that brings Podiatry services to people experiencing homelessness, alongside the HOTS team. The collaboration draws people to use both services, along with the opportunity to provide donated footwear to those that need it. The innovative use of cloud-based practice management and clinical information systems allows for timely reporting to associated medical practitioners, and often referral into mainstream services.

First Nations Health Award

Awarded to the healthcare organisation and/or service provider that demonstrates being responsive to the diversity of, and differences in, our communities to address health inequalities for our First Nations communities.

Joint winners

Tamworth Aboriginal Medical Service

Being involved with the Local Health District Cardiac Rehab and Prevention for 25 years, it’s well known and documented that Aboriginal clients have had extremely poor uptake and completion rate of “mainstream” Cardiac Rehabilitation and Prevention programs. A well-respected Aboriginal Woman informed the Tamworth Aboriginal Medical Service (TAMS) that the Tamworth Hospital Cardiac rehab was based in the mammography building and men are never going to go there. So, through collaboration with TAMS, Hunter New England Health and a local gym owner, an extremely successful Aboriginal-led Cardiac Rehab and Prevention program was started.

The Glen for Women

The Glen for Women is the first Aboriginal Community Controlled Residential Rehabilitation Centre for women in NSW. It is a benchmark for residential services in providing a holistic program that encompasses and addresses the physical, emotional, cultural, and spiritual wellbeing needs of Aboriginal women, in turn supporting the needs of community.

The demand for the service has well surpassed expectations and in its first 12 months of operation, over 50 women (majority Indigenous) have completed the program. The Glen for Women is hopeful its pioneering work sets an example for communities all over Australia to establish similar facilities.

Technology in Health Award

Recognising the healthcare organisations and/or service provider that demonstrates leadership in the use of technology to support their patients.

Uniting NSW ACT - Telehealth4kids

Telehealth4Kids (TH4K) was designed for children under 12 years of age and their families to access therapy via digital means. These are children and their families who live remotely and in regional areas who cannot access face to face models of therapeutic supports, as well as children who are experiencing school refusal and post COVID anxiety and mental health difficulties. TH4K was inspired by Clinicians who wanted to make a difference for all children with mental health needs, regardless of where they live. A telehealth checklist, guide and training were developed for Clinicians, and an FAQ was created for parents and children. Clinicians are able to give clarity and security to parents from the onset of referral by providing them with a test run, troubleshooting digital access and hints and tips for how to make a successful session.

Primary Care Innovation Award

Awarded to the health centre and/or service provider that demonstrates outstanding innovation in primary care.


EngAGE is an innovative program that leverages powerful social connections to enhance the physical and mental wellbeing of participants. Developed through a dynamic partnership between the PHN, local businesses, and the University of Newcastle, EngAGE has established two models of service delivery: one for community-dwelling older adults and another for residential aged care facilities (RACFs). In just one year, EngAGE has delivered over 1800 hours of "EngAGEment" to participants, yielding significant improvements in strength, social connection and student development. Student practitioner involvement makes the program highly cost-effective while delivering incredible results that have set a new standard for community health programs.

Primary Care Leader Award - Organisation

Awarded to the health centre, service provider or individual that has best demonstrated innovation and leadership in primary care and/or the values of respect, innovation, accountability, integrity, cooperation, and recognition.

Joint Winners

Parents Beyond Breakup

Parents Beyond Breakup (PBB) established Dads in Distress (DIDs) to address a need not supported through any other program; men impacted by family breakdown. Separated fathers are the highest at-risk population and the second highest for psycho-social suicide risk factor. This unique, male-friendly easy-access, non-judgemental initiative offers everyday dads peer support for relief from isolation, hopelessness and suicidality experienced with loss of contact with their children. The program drives innovation through its early intervention support to men, real-time data outcomes, evidence of reduction in suicidality, and breaking down barriers to accessing services. Peer support is offered through in-person and online groups, regular workshops and via PBB’s telephone support line.

Raymond Terrace Respiratory Clinic

Raymond Terrace Family Practice rapidly responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by stepping forward to provide the flagship service: Raymond Terrace Respiratory Clinic (RTRC). The team deftly developed and implemented a new forward-thinking model of care which provided a safe space for people with respiratory illness to be seen. To facilitate improved care for people isolating at home, they were strong advocates for telehealth and embraced opportunities for technology, being early adopters of telehealth, e-scripts, MHR and e-referral. RTRC provided local peer leadership by sharing their practical experience in infection protection and control and thorough clinical assessment and increased access to much needed primary care. The team saw and assessed 23,157 people from its community and provided 52,927 vaccinations.

Primary Care Leader Award – Individual

Donna Taylor

Donna Taylor has been the CEO of Pius X Aboriginal Corporation for 24 years and has been instrumental in the provision of specialist health practitioners to Moree and surrounding areas. Recognising the barriers in the community to see specialists, such as cost, travel and separation from family, Donna set herself the mission to entice specialists to come to Moree. The first specialists were Ear, Nose and Throat specialists in 2003 followed by a Gynaecology service in 2005. For both these visiting services, referrals come from as far afield as Tamworth, Scone and Coonabarabran. Donna then enlisted the services of a Rheumatologist and shortly afterwards Ophthalmologists providing eye surgery in Moree. Next was a cardiologist to provide ECHO's and stress tests. Other specialist services include Psychiatry, Paediatrics and the most recent, a Neurologist. Donna then went about providing Allied Health Professionals to service the community enlisting a Diabetes Educator, a Nutritionist, a Podiatrist, and an Audiologist. Donna has had to source the funding to provide these services and to maintain them as bulkbilling services. Donna is always thinking of ways to help the community whether it be an individual or a group either by health promotion or the provision of Health Professionals.

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