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Message from the CEO

We know that people living in rural and remote Australia experience poorer health outcomes than their metropolitan counterparts1. In a timely article published by Croakey this week, Tim Adair and Alan Lopez inform us that Australians living in socially disadvantaged areas and outside major cities are much more likely to die prematurely, and that disparities in health outcomes such as this are widening. The health of rural and remote Australians living with chronic disease is therefore likely to have been highly impacted due to the disruption to care during the lockdown, and those impacts will be longer-lasting due to poor access to health services in rural and remote areas. Alongside these sobering facts we also know that economic fallout from the pandemic is already being experienced disproportionately among poorer households, in poorer regions within countries, and in poorer countries in general3

So it seems that social and economic recovery will not happen equitably for all Australians unless specific focus is given to supporting those living with socioeconomic disadvantage who have been most impacted by the lockdown. The consequences of a one-size-fits-all approach to recovery might include a prolonged economic downturn for rural and remote Australia, with a consequent drift of people away from rural towns in search of job security, as well as an acceleration in health disparities for people living in the bush.

Careful, rural-proofed strategies to rebuilding are required to ensure that all Australians can benefit from lessons learned from the pandemic.

If there are any silver linings to be gleaned from the COVID-19 pandemic, one shining example is the swift transition by health professionals everywhere to telehealth as an adjunct to face-to-face consultations. Feedback from physiotherapists working in primary health settings in rural NSW indicate that on the whole their clients like the medium, particularly those who live outside of regional centres, because it reduced the need to travel to access care. As we know, one of the central principles of primary health care is that which is delivered as close to the client’s home as possible. One of the most important decisions the government, private health insurers and third party payers might make would be to retain telehealth as one element of a suite of services that truly support equitable access to care for all Australians.

There are still problems to overcome to ensure telehealth is accessible to all, with reports that the user-end experience requires some improvement. We hear from AHPs providing services to Aboriginal communities in Western NSW that access to technology, both in terms of hardware/devices and internet connectivity/performance, continues to be an issue. 

These persistent barriers to service access arising from gaps in basic infrastructure and wealth disparity point to the need for targeted strategies to support rural and remote Australia as we emerge from social and economic lockdown. 

Stay well, everyone.

Cath
 

https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports-data/population-groups/rural-remote-australians/overview

2 https://croakey.org/the-poorest-australians-are-twice-as-likely-to-die-before-age-75-as-the-richest-and-the-gap-is-widening/?fbclid=IwAR2Gcm2rwATQ9w29L0cC2qKjhjL9uZzWTRulJRZ8FJI-p30rMMETNU-QJ-g

3 https://theconversation.com/rich-and-poor-dont-recover-equally-from-epidemics-rebuilding-fairly-will-be-a-global-challenge-138935

Advanced Rehab Centre Free Webinars and Lecture Series

Advanced Rehab Centre (ARC) are offering a free Evening Lecture Series for health care professionals. Lecture topics include: The role of Exercise Physiologists in identifying and managing cardio-metabolic risk factors in a neurological population, Dynamic contracture management 
Featuring the Multi Motion dynamic joint, Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) 2020 Series, Am I Eligible? and Support Models & Social Design. Registrations and bookings are essential. Lectures and registration can be found here.

IAHA MEDIA RELEASE: Skills we need and can’t afford to ignore or neglect – the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health workforce

Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA), the national organisation for the Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander allied health workforce, stand with our colleagues the Australian Indigenous
Psychologists Association (AIPA) and Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia in their call for
Government commitments to be backed by action.

On 15 May, National Cabinet endorsed the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic
Response Plan. The Commonwealth designated $48.1M for the Plan, adding to around $500M
already committed for mental health and suicide prevention since January.

The need for appropriately resourced and targeted mental health services for Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander people was stark before the COVID crisis. The evidence of the impact of
longstanding economic and social disadvantage and trauma on Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander people is overwhelming and continually noted.

This is the situation COVID19 has amplified. It didn’t come on us suddenly. Nor has the
evidence of this need been hidden.

On 18 May, AIPA and the Centre for Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP) called for an Indigenous phone help-line, operated under
Indigenous leadership and with Indigenous counsellors and mental health practitioners
available 24/7. AIPA has been advocating for such a service since 2016.

An Indigenous specific phone help-line must be a priority and should not need to be continually
argued when the evidence is clear. Nor should we have to call again for urgent, sustained
investment to build the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health and social and
emotional wellbeing workforce. So many reports and plans have already identified the need to
do so, with little to no implementation or investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led
solutions developed by the experts themselves.

“The Indigenous help-line is a necessary and obvious investment. We have a strong, skilled
and qualified existing workforce in mental health and social and emotional wellbeing, and IAHA
is working hard in continuing to grow the next generation of the mental health workforce”. said
Donna Murray, IAHA CEO.

Full media release can be found on the IAHA website.

Current Job Vacancies
Senior Clinical Podiatrist - SA Health - Riverland Mallee Coorong Local Health Network
The Senior Clinical Podiatrist is an experienced clinician who applies significant clinical and leadership expertise to the development, delivery and continuous improvement of quality Podiatry services appropriate to the rural and remote context. Operating within a multi-disciplinary service context, the Clinical Senior Podiatrist upholds professional standards and provides complex clinical and consultancy Podiatry services across the Riverland Mallee Coorong. For more information visit 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.

Occupational Therapist - Top End Health Service - Darwin/Palmerston
Provision and co-ordination of clinical Occupational Therapy (OT) Services at the Royal Darwin Hospital (RDH) and Palmerston Regional Hospital as well as specific leadership, supervision/mentorship and education to directly reporting staff, as well as other professionals within their own team and/or across disciplines throughout the Top End Health Service (TEHS). Advanced clinical experience in any of the following areas, Paediatrics, Hand Therapy, or Surgical. 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.
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.
COVID-19 Information for Allied Health Professionals
The Department of Health has released a 30-minute online training
module covering the fundamentals of infection prevention and
control for COVID-19 and is intended for health care workers in
all settings. It also includes COVID-19 - What is it?, signs and symptoms, keeping safe - protecting yourself and others and mythbusting.

For up-to-date developments relating to COVID-19 visit:

https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert

and

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

Healthdirect Australia is working with the Australian Government Department of Health to provide information about COVID-19 to the public. They are sharing messaging and resources to help you provide evidence-based trusted information about COVID-19 to your community. These resources will be updated continually throughout this pandemic.

Healthdirect Australia has worked with the Department of Health to establish the Coronavirus Health Information Line (1800 020 080) to provide non-clinical information about COVID-19. Our healthdirect helpline (1800 022 222) is triaging people calling with symptoms. Both lines are receiving unprecedented call volumes, resulting in extended wait times for some callers. As part of the Australian Government’s health plan announced yesterday, we are expanding these helplines to be able to provide timely advice and support to everyone who needs it.

As an alternative to the helplines, answers to many questions are available on the healthdirect website coronavirus hub. Please direct your community to this hub as their first point of reference for reliable information about COVID-19. The healthdirect Symptom Checker provides self-guided triage to find out what to do next. A series of social media assets and videos are also available to download and use in your campaigns.

Resources to use and share:

This fact sheet relates to a temporary six-month measure for  Bulk Billed MBS Telehealth Services for doctors, nurses and mental health professionals to deliver services via telehealth, provided those services are bulk billed. The new MBS items will allow people to access essential health services in their home while they undergo self-isolation or quarantine, and reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for vulnerable people in the community.

The DOH has also released a fact sheet providing guidance on the distribution of PPE such as Tranche 1, Surgical masks and P2/N95 respirators in PHNs.

We are sharing this important information with all of our Information Partners - feel free to share both within your community and externally to help people easily find reliable information about COVID-19.

Additional resources

Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Australian Government Department of Health
Coronavirus (COVID-19) daily health alerts  – Australian Government Department of Health  
COVID-19 National Health Plan – Primary Care – Bulk Billed MBS Telehealth Services – Australian Government Department of Health

Online training provided by Phoenix Training assisting healthcare professionals communicate with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with hearing loss can be found here.


Webinar recording of "Experiences and Outcomes of Rural Generalist Trainees in QLD, NSW and TAS" now available!

On Thursday 19 March a group of Allied Health Rural Generalist trainees presented summaries of their service development projects. You can catch the recording 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
Links for Health Professionals Supporting Health Care in Bushfire Affected Communities

Volunteering Opportunities

The Federal Government has put in place emergency protocols to expedite the process of getting GPs and allied health professionals to bushfire-affected communities where they are needed most.

The Department of Health and Department of Human Services will prioritise all applications from health professionals who want to work in bushfire-affected communities. Allied health professionals can work at a new practice for up to two weeks using their existing Medicare provider number. 

Health professionals wishing to offer support to bushfire affected areas should contact their relevant Rural Workforce Agency (RWA):

People wishing to provide supplies and assistance are advised to direct their enquiries to the relevant state government.  Financial donations are preferred at this point, as services have been overwhelmed with donated clothing and household goods.  Donations can be directed to the relevant organisation in their state:

  • The Victorian Bushfire Appeal;
  • The NSW Fire Service; or 
  • The State Emergency Relief Fund (SA)
Emerging Minds: Community Trauma Toolkit
This toolkit contains resources to help and support adults and children before, during, and after a disaster or traumatic event. It will help you understand some of the impacts of disaster and how you can help lessen these impacts.
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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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