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Message from the CEO

Victoria’s experience with ongoing community transmission of COVID-19 sends a message to us all that this pandemic will impact all Australians’ lives for some time to come.
 
It’s very concerning therefore to see a significant drop in allied health MBS services claimed for people living with chronic disease.  Those who follow us on Facebook  will have seen our infographics showing that over the months of April and May 2020 there has been a 26% drop in allied health services delivered under GP Management Plans for people with chronic illnesses.  This includes services delivered by telehealth, which comprised only 4.5% of services delivered.  Even more alarming is a report we heard this week that non-COVID-related death rates have spiked in Australia. 
 
These disturbing trends should be viewed in the context that people accessing allied health services under GP Management Plans tend to be those who cannot afford to access services any other way, whether that is through private health insurance or third party payers such as DVA.  Even then, other data we have seen this week indicates a similar acute drop in services delivered to veterans. Regardless of how they access services, people living with chronic illness represent some of our most vulnerable populations who are scarcely resourced to manage their health condition without substantial support.  Where are these people, and how are they managing during the pandemic?
 
We might anticipate that reduced access or reluctance to access services for chronic conditions may result in physical and cognitive decline in vulnerable populations.   In turn, we might expect to see increasing presentations to hospital emergency departments as people delay accessing usual care until their condition becomes critical.  The question remains as to whether hospital and primary health care services are adequately prepared for the likely increased demand for rehabilitation and post-hospital care, especially since many hospital resources have been diverted to cater to the acute response to COVID-19.
 
The government’s response in relation to people with chronic conditions has been to embark on a public media campaign to encourage people that it is safe and also critical that they return to their health professionals to maintain their health and wellbeing.  While this is an important message we feel that more should be done to understand the extent of the problem, and to prepare for a surge in acute exacerbations of chronic conditions. Rates of potentially preventable hospitalisations may be one indicator of an increase in chronic conditions presenting as a result of loss of continuity of care.  Other data such as allied health MBS services are limited because they do not shed light on unmet need, and since allied health services are aggregated under a single item number, it’s impossible to understand what type of services are being accessed.
 
As a result we are left to join the dots between higher death rates and difficulty accessing or a reluctance to access chronic care services as a result of the pandemic. As it becomes apparent that we need to maintain a prolonged period of vigilance to reduce the spread of COVID-19 for the foreseeable future, our health system must also be proactive in preparing for the impact of loss of continuity of care for vulnerable populations, including our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and rural and remote communities. 
 
Together with our colleagues of the Australian Allied Health Leadership Forum, we have been calling for a managed approach “…to assess demand, plan and implement strategies to address identified gaps in surge service capacity for:

  • comprehensive primary healthcare for vulnerable clinical groups and
  • community-based post-hospital care and rehabilitation demands for both COVID positive and non COVID patients”
There is mounting evidence of the efficacy of allied health interventions in the management of chronic conditions (see our report: The Economic Impact of Allied Health), and I invite you to follow us over the next month as we explore the evidence base.

We continue to work with governments and stakeholders to ensure these vulnerable clients are able to access the services they need to maintain optimal health and wellbeing, regardless of where they live.

Stay well, everyone.

Cath
SARRAH Media Release - SARRAH Welcomes Appointment of New National Rural Health Commissioner
SARRAH welcomes the announcement of Associate Professor Ruth Stewart as Australia’s incoming National Rural Health Commissioner and look forward to building on the constructive relationship SARRAH enjoyed with her predecessor Professor Paul Worley.

SARRAH is committed to working constructively with the Commissioner and her Office and look forward to meeting with her in the near future.

“We’re delighted that Associate Professor Stewart, a practitioner with decades of experience and commitment to the health of rural and remote communities, has been appointed,” said SARRAH President, Rob Curry. “Being the Senior Medical Officer on Thursday Island, her experience as a rural GP in Victoria and years of work at the national level to build the rural health workforce makes Ruth an ideal choice.”

SARRAH's complete media release can be read on our website here.
Message Extract from outgoing National Rural Health Commissioner Paul Worley
The following is an extract of a message from Paul Worley former National Rural Health Commissioner dated 30 June 2020:

Dear Rural and Remote Australians,

It has been my great privilege to serve for two terms as your inaugural National Rural Health Commissioner. I complete my tenure today. This Australian and world-first position, with its independent status enshrined in legislation, has placed a national and international focus on rural and remote communities, their health, wellbeing and development. These three interlocking elements are the barometers of how we function, as individuals, as communities and as a nation.

Since commencing my role, my activities have focused on improving access and equity through improvements to the supply of a sustainable, high quality, rural and remote health workforce. I have approached this work with a clear and lived understanding of the capacity of rural networks to develop the means of production that will create self-sustaining systems of workforce training and service delivery. However, in order to realise this, we need to move away from current models that rely on a workforce that is primarily developed for and by market-driven, metropolitan training systems and a dwindling cohort of solo practitioners working in isolation in small towns. We must move to a system of integrated, place-based, regional health networks that train and support a rural and remote workforce – working in collaborative teams across defined geographical areas. The foundations for this system have already been established through several decades of rural health education development, and, more recently, the National Rural Generalist Pathway for medicine and the allied health Service and Learning Consortia – two models I have developed with you over the last two years and presented to the government on behalf of you all.

I am profoundly grateful to the thousands of rural and remote Australians – consumers, local councils, students, trainees, clinicians, educators, supervisors, health and service delivery organisations and professional groups - who have contributed so generously to the work I have been engaged in during my term and who support the recommendations it produced.

The work I have undertaken over the last two years, the strong evidence base that has supported it, and the wisdom and experience of Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders in this field, have demonstrated that the solutions to many of the challenges that rural communities face lie within rural communities themselves. I thank all the clinicians who serve rural Australia so well, in particular those who have come from overseas or through locum agencies to help our rural communities in times of need. Now is the time for you to become the supervisors of the next generation of rural and remotely trained health professionals. Through targeted investment and an urgent realignment of funding priorities towards smaller rural and remote communities, we can create the local means of production for a world class rural and remote training and service delivery system, starting with those where our nation’s food and mineral resources are produced, far from our major cities. In doing so we will increase access and equity for the health and wellbeing of those populations and develop the productivity and prosperity of their communities and of our nation as a whole. If we can achieve that, then we will become the world’s best health system.

Thank you all for the privilege of serving you as your National Rural Health Commissioner. I wish you and my successor ongoing success and good health.

New Zealand Ministry of Health Report on Guidance for the rehabilitation of people with or recovering from COVID-19
The New Zealand Ministry of Health have released a guideline last month highlighting the complexity and potential long-term needs of people recovering from COVID-19.  As alluded to in Cath's message, the guidance points to the importance of the allied, scientific and technical workforce in reducing the short- and long-term health and wellbeing implications of COVID-19 infection.
The guideline can be read here.
Indexation of DVA Fees
DVA fees for dental and allied health items, and most medical services, were indexed by 1.5% on 1 July 2020.  The fee schedules on the DVA website, including software vendor files, have been updated to reflect the new fees.  More information on DVA indexation arrangements can be found at: https://www.dva.gov.au/providers/fees-schedules
PARTICIPATE IN CPD MOTIVATION RESEARCH

Attention Allied Health Professionals! This is your chance to have your say about your CPD experiences.
Do we do CPD because we have to, because we want to, because we learn new things to use at work?
This short survey is part of PhD research about Allied Health clinician CPD experiences and why we do CPD
To participate in the CPD survey - click here
SARRAH Allied Health Rural Generalist Pathway
COVID-19 has fundamentally changed how we do business and highlighted how allied health can adapt to thrive. An Allied Health Rural Generalist Pathway grant can support you in recruiting or retaining an early career professional to future-proof your business by capability in emerging areas like telehealth. The overarching goal of the Allied Health Rural Generalist Pathway strategy (AHRGP strategy) is to improve health outcomes for rural and remote consumers through increasing access to a highly skilled allied health workforce and enhancing opportunities for multi-disciplinary care in rural healthcare teams. Applying is simple and will help you put the right foot forward in this new era. Visit https://sarrah.org.au/ahrgp to learn more and apply.
Current Job Vacancies
Speech Pathologist - Top End, Darwin Region
Rural Workforce Agency Northern Territory (RWA NT) are partnering with Top End Allied Health (TEAH) to find a Speech Pathologist to add to their experienced Darwin based team. TEAH is a leading National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) registered provider for Occupational Therapy, Speech Pathology, Social Work and Support Coordination. For more information, follow the link to our website.

Senior Occupational Therapist - Darwin, Palmerston
An exciting opportunity currently exists for an experienced Occupational Therapist to join Acute Occupational Therapy Services as part of the Multidisciplinary Acute Team at Royal Darwin and Palmerston Regional Hospital. For more information, follow the link to our website.

Occupational Therapist - Darwin, Palmerston NT
An exciting opportunity currently exists for an experienced Occupational Therapist to join Acute Occupational Therapy Services as part of the Multidisciplinary Acute Team at Royal Darwin and Palmerston Regional Hospital. For more information, follow the link to our website.

Psychologist - Wurrumiyanga on the Tiwi Islands NT
An experienced health professional needed to provide a psychology service to remote Aboriginal communities on the Tiwi Islands and Belyuen. The psychologist will have the dual role of providing counselling services to residents and increasing the knowledge and skills of the primary health care staff to deliver trauma informed care. For more information, follow the link to our website.

Specialist Mental Health Worker - Senior - Katherine NT
NT Health require an experienced mental health worker to provide community mental health assessment, treatment, counselling and case management services for people experiencing acute and chronic dysfunction associated with mental illness or mental disorder in a community and remote setting. For more information, follow the link to our website.

Occupational Therapist - Allied Health Rural Generalist Position - Albury NSW
My Word Speech Therapy is expanding their service to include Occupational Therapy services and have an exciting new position that includes training in rural allied health. The successful candidate will have the opportunity to participate in the Allied Health Rural Generalist Workforce and Education Scheme. For more information, follow the link to our website.

Team Leader - PATCHES Therapy Services - Northern Territory
PATCHES Therapy Services is seeking a motivated Team Leader to join and drive their Darwin-based team. PATCHES consists of a transdisciplinary team extensively supported by diagnostic services and clinical administrative staff. Services are delivered to NDIS, private and justice system participants. For more information, follow the link to our website.

Physiotherapist – Katherine Physio - Katherine
Rural Workforce Agency Northern Territory (RWA NT) are partnering with Katherine Physio to find a Physiotherapist to join their passionate Katherine based team. Katherine Physio is a community based practice who work hard to educate their patients on their condition and empower them with the tools to assist self-management. For more information visit our website.

SARRAH Telehealth Community of Practice

As remote working becomes the new norm, telehealth is more popular than ever. SARRAH is ready to support allied health professionals navigate telehealth. To find further info or join our SARRAH Telehealth Community of Practice email sarrah@sarrah.org.au or visit our dedicated telehealth resource page here.

Upcoming Events and conferences 

OT Exchange 2020
22-23 June 2020
Online Conference
HIC 2020
19-21 October 2020
Brisbane, QLD
21st International Mental Health Conference
12-14 November 2020
RACV Royal Pines Resort, Gold Coast, QLD
Child & Adolescent Mental Health Conference
25 - 27 November 2020
Mantra Legends, Gold Coast
Associations Forum National Conference
30 November - 1 December 2020
Royal International Convention Centre, Brisbane
The 2020 Workplace Mental Health Symposium
TBC
Hilton, Brisbane, QLD1
7th Rural and Remote Health Scientific Symposium:
Shaping the future

TBC
Alice Springs Convention Centre, NT
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Copyright © 2018 Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health (SARRAH). All rights reserved.

Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health
Unit 4, 17 Napier Close, Deakin, ACT, 2600

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