2022 has been a challenging and rewarding year. We would like to thank all our staff, donors, suppliers and customers for their support and encouragement throughout the year and wish everyone a happy holiday season.
Continuing to make an impact where it counts
Over the last 20 years the Foundation has contributed more than $132 million in direct expenditure to support improved access to health care and social services, and facilitate community development in rural and remote towns across NSW. We have employed more than 80 direct FTE jobs in rural and remote towns. Over that period our work has generated more than 1,100 flow-on jobs in rural and remote towns and contributed an estimated $963 million in flow-on economic activity. The data again reinforces the critical importance of sustaining and growing health and social assistance services located in rural and remote communities not only to improve health and reduce avoidable hospitalisations, but to support local jobs and economic growth.
Delivering more care to even more disadvantaged people
In 2022 we saw a 249 percent increase in new rural and remote patients compared to 2021 reflecting the growing demand for health care in our communities. This contributed to a 38.7 percent increase in consultations and a 33 percent increase in preventative vaccinations for rural and Aboriginal patients (not including COVID vaccinations) even as rural GP numbers declined. This was an amazing feat for which our clinicians and staff who deserve our eternal gratitude.
New Name, Same Mission, Bolder Direction
According to the NSW Rural Doctors Network, there will be no GPs in rural and remote NSW within the next decade. After much reflection, the Board of RARMS agreed that our priority must be to ensure that disadvantaged communities can continue to access resources to support health and sustainability in our communities. This required us to shift our focus to play a larger role in tackling the drivers of poor health to keep as many people healthier for longer, and out of our overstretched hospital system. This meant putting more resources into addressing the social determinants of health and rebalancing our work in rural and remote communities. As part of this urgent strategic shift, in 2022 the Board approved the investment of $2 million into rural and remote health services to support the transition of many of our practices to new and more sustainable models. Under the changes we worked with our partners to transition two of our practices to the management of the Royal Flying Doctor Services, two to new GPs we recruited to our towns and two to the responsibility of local government. Our remaining practices are being transformed into specialist centres focussed on new models of technology-enabled Integrated People-Centred Care in Collarenebri, and training for integrated team-based care in Armidale. To reflect this change we adopted a new name, The Healthy Communities Foundation Australia. Centre for Research Excellence in Remote Health
We were pleased to be asked to partner with the Menzies School of Health Research, and other innovative leaders including the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress and Torres Health, to establish a new federally funded Centre of Research Excellence for Strengthening Health Systems in Remote Australia. The new Centre will open in Alice Springs in 2023 and we will start work sharing our 20 years of success and expertise in delivering sustainable health services to rural and remote communities to develop new models that will support some of Australia’s most disadvantaged communities.
Addressing the plague of youth suicide in rural and remote areas
In 2022 we secured a multi-million funding package from the Commonwealth Government to enable us to work with Suicide Prevention Australia, the NSW Rugby League and the National Rugby League to design and deliver a new rural and remote community-based suicide prevention program. The program aims to empower and enable local communities to support improved mental health in young people and provide community first responder training to help young people experiencing depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation.
Building a new network to tackle Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)
This year we welcome a new partnership with the University of Sydney, and the extraordinary Professor Elizabeth Elliot from the Sydney Children's Hospital CICADA Centre, to be the delivery partner for a new University-led program to improve the identification of children challenged by FASD in rural and remote NSW. With current projections that the medical workforce in rural and remote NSW will disappear within 10 years, our goal has been to work to build a sustainable and ongoing network of trained nurses, allied health workers, teachers and social workers with the skills to identify and support children with FASD and give them access to the care they need as soon as possible.
An initiative with the Aboriginal community and the Foundation in the small remote town of Collarenebri, Marubaa Galariinbaraay is a completely new approach to community-led planning and design of health services to create a holistic approach to addressing the social determinants of health. Using the Foundation’s Community Development for Health framework, during 2022 we facilitated a number of community meetings to identify the drivers of poor health and build a comprehensive whole-of-community 10 year plan. In February 2023 we will finish construction of our new million-dollar Community Hub that will house health and medical services, Aboriginal services, a health careers and training hub to support school students to gain skills and experience in a health service, an Aboriginal garden to teach young people about traditional medicine, an after-school study centre and a new integrated allied health program. This is the culmination of years of work by the local community to lead the reforms needed to address the growing burden of disease.
Remote Integrated & Collaborative Health (RICH)
With alarming projections that rural and remote NSW will be without GPs within a decade, the RICH Initiative is a rural-designed and led initiative to deliver integrated care on-the-ground through a partnership between communities, the Foundation, InterHealthCare, Kinephonics and the University of Sydney. The initiative incorporates blended models of care, exciting new digital health solutions and student supervised practice allowing a dramatic expansion of integrated, team-based, continuity of care across multiple communities. The initiative set out to prove what we already know - when given the right support rural people they are better at designing and delivering solutions that align with their own needs. The initiative reinforced our motto ‘we can together’.
HealthAccess has gone from strength to strength with the renewal of our contact with the Murrumbidgee Local Health District to support improved access to health care in 33 rural and regional towns and a catchment of more than 250,000 people, and an expansion of HealthAccess Aged Care to more than 15 facilities ensuring access to quality care for up to 1,000 elderly Australians. We are looking forward to announcing further expansions of these services in 2023.
Independent Deloitte review backs Telehealth solution
In 2022 we received an independent evaluation from Deloitte of our unique GP-led Telehealth service which found significant improvements in patient satisfaction and reductions in avoidable transportations and costs for health service providers.
2023 - Year of Opportunity
In 2023 we will be continuing our focus on innovative models of care for disadvantaged communities including:
Opening our first integrated people-centred care Community Hub in Collarenebri in February 2023.
Working with the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community in Collarenebri to launch a 10 year Community Plan.
Working with the RACGP, Hunter New England CC PHN, the community and other practices to establish the New England Centre for Integrated Health and Medical Training.
Working with the Menzies School of Health Research to establish the Centre for Research Excellence in Remote Health.
Working with the NT Primary Health Network and health services providers in Alice Springs to explore new and more sustainable models for health service delivery.
Continuing our work with remote communities in South Australia, and the South Australian health system, on the development of a new network model of integrated primary health care delivery for remote communities.
Working with the RACF sector on expanding access to continuity of GP care for elderly Australians.
Rolling out our joint rural and remote suicide prevention program and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder training and diagnostic programs.
Expanding HealthAccess into a number of additional States on a pathway to building a national GP-led health service that supports continuity of care for rural and remote people.
We will also welcome two new directors, Mr Tim Curran (Executive Director of CatholicCare) and Mr Christopher Cliffe (former CEO of SARRAH) to our Board as we say goodbye to Dr Ken Mackey (former Chair of the RDAA) and Professor Amanda Barnard (Professor of Rural and Indigenous Health, ANU) (https://www.thcfa.org.au/board). We would again like to thank all our supporters, donors, staff and customers for their inspiration and ongoing support of our work. We hope to work with you again in 2023 to deliver practical solutions for disadvantaged communities designed by rural people, for rural people.