Murray PHN discoveries will inform “significant” changes, intended to improve patient experiences, health outcomes, and workforce sustainability.
For the past year, the Murray Primary Health Network has been assessing how the health system operates in our region.
Their discoveries will inform “significant” changes, intended to improve patient experiences, health outcomes, and workforce sustainability.
It aims to do so while reducing the cost per capita of servicing the health needs of the almost 100,000 square kilometre region, which is home to more than 560,000 people.
The primary health network extends from Mildura in the north-west to Woodend in the south, across to Seymour and up to Albury.
Within that area, there are more than 33,300 adults with diabetes, 13,700 people over the age of 45 with chronic lung diseases, and more than 8,300 people with chronic heart failure.
Murray PHN chief executive officer Matt Jones said the region had higher rates of debilitating chronic illnesses than metropolitan areas, significant levels of poor mental health, alcohol and other drug issues, an ageing population, a huge geographical area to service, and the challenges of attracting and retaining a skilled medical workforce.
“It is time for change in our health system, to find innovative ways of delivering coordinated services in a regional context and to enable us to cope with the increasing demands of acute and chronic illness,” he said.
“We know that poorly managed illnesses contribute to an estimated 71,500 potentially preventable hospital days in our region each year, at a cost of more than $200 million to our hospital system, and a potential block to reducing hospital waiting lists.”
Without co-ordination and focus, Mr Jones said the health system could not provide optimum and effective care.
“Worse, the impact on individuals can be devastating,” he said.
The health system has traditionally been structured around individual service providers.
Mr Jones said the idea behind the proposed changes, to be implemented on July 1, was a focus on population health priorities.
In our region, those priorities are chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD; cardiovascular diseases; and diabetes and its complications, in conjunction with the national priorities of mental health, alcohol and other drugs, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, and aged care.
Mr Jones said the $25 million available for health service commissioning in our region in the new financial year would be directed to the areas of acute or chronic ill-health that have “the most significant impact” on the health of residents.
“It is vital that the system changes from a focus on single episodes of service, to working in collaboration with a range of health professionals to tackle the greatest burden of disease,” Mr Jones said.
That includes minimising preventable hospitalisations.
“Ultimately, we must help the primary healthcare sector deliver high-quality services to ensure patients receive the right care, at the right time and place,” Mr Jones said.
“By treating illnesses more effectively at their earlier stages and by helping patients manage aspects of their own care, some of the most serious disease consequences can be reduced.”
He said Murray PHN was forming partnerships to help achieve its goals.
“Importantly, our partnerships include the input and perspectives of our eight community and clinical advisory councils, based in our four regional catchments – North West, Central Victoria, Goulburn Valley and North East – to ensure our approaches are in touch with local needs and opportunities,” Mr Jones said.
Residents and service providers will be encouraged to provide input into the proposed changes, especially during the next two to three months.
Primary Health Networks were created by the federal government in 2015 to lead system improvements, which are tailored to the needs of specific regions.
“There is a recognition we need to do things differently,” Mr Jones said.
“If we keep doing the same thing, we will get the same results, or our health outcomes will continue to deteriorate.”