Annual report 2017-18: Overview

Executive summary

The WA Country Health Service has maintained our commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of country people through access to quality services and by supporting people to look after their own health throughout 2017-18. The key to this focus are the partnerships formed with our communities, consumers, staff and service providers dedicated to delivering outstanding services to country people.

Year in review

  • 1,122 people a day were presented to a major country emergency department (ED) in 2017
  • 394,770 times people presented at a country ED were treated and cared for during 2017-18
  • 124,316 admitted patients were discharged
  • 5,792 admissions for people living in country WA for an acute mental health or alcohol and drug condition in 2017
  • In 2017/18 WACHS supported 4,564 births
  • 15,000+ elective surgery patients seen
  • 35,647 Aboriginal patients provided inpatient care
  • 42,475Telehealth patient appointments and services 2017, up 16+% since 2016.
    • 2014 - 19,537
    • 2015 - 27,381
    • 2016 - 36,341

See Appendix 3 for Data Sources.

WACHS in country communities

Workplace profile as at March 2018:

  • 10,066 country people employed
  • 97% of our staff work from country locations
  • 413 Aboriginal people employed (4.4%)
  • 42 staff with a self-declared disability (0.4%)
  • Staff gender profile:
    • 18% males
    • 82% females
  • 50% women in SES equivalent or Executive level positions
  • Age profile:
    • 24 and under - 5%
    • 25-44 years - 38.1%
    • 45 and over - 56.9%
  • 254 interns and recent graduates started with us

Data source - Employee Establishment snapshot as at the end of March 2018.

WA Country Health Service at a glance

The WA Country Health Service provides comprehensive health services to people living in country areas of Western Australia, from the most remote towns in the Kimberley, Pilbara and the Goldfields to coastal cities in the Great Southern, Midwest and the Southwest, and to numerous small towns in the Wheatbelt. The geographical area covered by country health spans approximately 2.55 million square kilometres. The WA Country Health Service is the largest country health system in Australia covering the whole of the State outside the Perth metropolitan area.

According to the latest available Australian Bureau of Statistics Estimated Resident Population (ERP) data (2016), the population of WACHS’s catchment area is 531,934 people. Just over 10 per cent of these people (54,014) identify as Aboriginal. The population we service is diverse and expansive and as a result has widely varying health needs.

People living in rural and remote areas tend to experience poorer general health than those in metropolitan areas and Aboriginal health and life expectancy, in particular, is significantly less than that of non-Aboriginal people.

Despite the challenges of vast distances and health inequalities, the WA Country Health Service offers comprehensive health services to country residents and visitors that encompass emergency and hospital services, population, public and primary health care, mental health, drug and alcohol services, Aboriginal health, child and community health and residential and community aged care services.

We do this in our 68 gazetted hospitals and 42 health centres, along with a large number of non-hospital and community based facilities such as multipurpose services, nursing posts, remote clinics, community mental health services and population health facilities. In addition, WACHS provides an array of home and community care and aged care services for older people in country WA, including managing more than 550 aged care beds and two residential aged care facilities (nursing homes).

Government funding and industry investment over recent years have brought about a transformation of country health care through major and minor capital works. More towns now have contemporary health campuses, expanded hospitals, greater emergency service capacity and modern facilities and equipment. Coupled with technological and service innovations such as Telehealth, the WA Country Health Service is now delivering health care closer to home for more country Western Australians than ever before.

Our values in action

Bringing cancer care closer to home

A cancer diagnosis can be a traumatic experience. Cancer survivor Caroline Rowcroft knows only too well the implications such a diagnosis can have for a person's everyday life.

“There are often many treatment options to be considered and being with our loved ones and support networks at such a time is crucial,” said Caroline. The Midwest mum-of-four has been the ‘community voice’ during the design phase of the new regional cancer hostel which is ideally situated close to the Midwest Cancer Centre.

“As a cancer survivor I felt I could positively contribute to this project. Having used the hostel facilities in Perth during my treatment, I wanted to replicate that ‘home away from home’ feeling here.”

The new $1.38 million Midwest Cancer Hostel is funded through the Commonwealth Health and Hospitals Fund (HHF) and includes seven double rooms providing accommodation for cancer patients and their carers from communities outside of Geraldton, to enable access to cancer treatment and/ or specialist cancer services closer to home.

Caroline also said that having a welcoming, nonclinical, safe, secure and culturally appropriate facility right next to the cancer centre would have a positive effect on people by removing some of the stress associated with travelling to Perth for appointments.

“With this new facility, interconnected doors open up to allow family members to stay which is especially helpful during the school holidays.

“This has been a great initiative and I am ecstatic that this hostel has been built. I hope the people who end up using this facility find comfort in the design and that the location makes attending appointments so much easier for them,” said Caroline.

The facility, called Protea Lodge, opened in May 2018 and is a welcome addition to those who need a ‘home away from home’.

Both projects are part of the Strengthening Cancer Services in Regional Western Australia initiative; a $22.9 million commitment by the Australian Government which will see ten projects delivered by WA Country Health Service across the state.

[Photos (PDF version only): Protea Lodge – Midwest Cancer Centre opened in May 2018; Caroline Rowcroft with Nick Silich and Ali Devellerez from SPH Architects]

Performance highlights

Throughout this report you will see that individuals and teams from across the health service have been recognised for their outstanding work and commitment and for leading the way in their field. Many have been recognised with formal awards, a testament to the calibre of our staff and their dedication to improving patient care across country WA.

Patient Opinion

Patient Opinion is an independent web-based consumer feedback platform that allows the people who use our services, their families and carers to comment on their experiences. The website allows people to communicate with health services and provides a channel for WA Country Health Service to keep in touch with people regarding the outcome of their feedback and what action we have taken.

The first Western Australian health service to fully adopt the platform, three regions in the WA Country Health Service initially joined a one-year pilot which concluded in December 2016. The pilot was hugely successful and in February 2017 the platform was extended across all seven regions. The site is independently moderated and is intended to supplement and enhance existing feedback and complaints systems by providing a more informal and real-time avenue for consumers to be heard. The project has steadily gained momentum with consumers sharing their stories via the website regularly across the State. District Health Advisory Councils have helped to promote the feedback platform in the community and to encourage people to share their stories.

"Lack of women’s health GP"

Posted by Racsf53 (as a staff member posting for a patient/service user)

As a full time worker, getting an appointment with a female GP has proven frustrating at Derby. Each time I try book an appointment I'm told to come back on Friday, they might know if there is a female GP visiting the next week. With only one male GP at the hospital and no appointments available to see the female GPs at Derby Aboriginal Health Service if you are not Aboriginal. I'm overdue for my regular checks by two years. I'd love to have the option of seeing a female GP please.

Response from Rachele Ferrari, Operations Manager, Derby Fitzroy Valley, WACHS 6 months ago

We have made a change

Good morning Racsf53,

Thank you for your story. I appreciate you telling your story when we met a few days ago. I have also passed on your message to DAHS, who are a separate organisation to Derby Hospital.

I wanted to let everyone know we have heard your story and a change is underway.

Access to a female GP is important and we are about to commence a women's health GP clinic at Derby Hospital. Dr Heather Langsford will start these clinics on Friday next week, 9th March. Appointments can be made by calling the GP clerk at Derby Hospital on 9193 3214.

We also have other female doctors and trained nurses who can take the tests you need. If a Friday is not suitable, you can contact me directly and I will make sure you have access to an appointment for this important test ASAP.

Kind regards,
Rachele Humbert.
Operations Manager, Derby Hospital.

View story >

Feedback about our services from Patient Opinion

We had a really positive experience at the Margaret River Hospital - the midwives and the doctor were excellent and we were well looked after at every step. It was a very personal experience and we are glad that we choose to stay at our local hospital. Both the baby and mum are doing well. - Margaret River Hospital Patient

We took our child to the Emergency Department at Broome Hospital … Our child was later admitted to the Kids’ ward with suspected appendicitis. We were there for 22 hours and in that time every single staff member we dealt with, including RNs, orderlies, admin, doctors, personal care assistants, cleaners and the surgeon were incredibly professional, positive and friendly. To finish off our visit we had a delicious roast lamb lunch! Thank you so much for making what could have been a very unpleasant break in our lovely Broome holiday more than bearable. - Broome Hospital Patient

I cannot begin to thank the staff at the Geraldton Hospital for the care they provided to me. Every staff member properly introduced themselves, including doctors, nurses, clerks and patient service assistant workers. I was constantly reassured and asked if I had any questions. This is the first time I’ve ever been hospitalised and I’m grateful for the care I received from all hospital staff. - Geraldton Hospital Patient

I just wanted to make a comment and say thank you for the wonderful care I received at Kununurra Hospital recently. I have never experienced this sort of exceptional and personal care in a hospital before and I really appreciated it. - Kununurra Hospital Patient

The care I have received as a maternity patient at Bunbury Hospital has been outstanding. Overall … a wonderful experience and I can't thank all the staff involved in my care enough for everything they did for me. - Bunbury Hospital Patient

From the moment I arrived at hospital I was treated with the upmost care and kindness by everyone I came in contact with, from the surgeon and doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, two ladies and cleaners made what was a horrible and traumatic event for me, more bearable and less stressful. I’m very grateful – thank you. - Geraldton Hospital Patient

Consistent with our annual patient survey results, the majority of stories shared on Patient Opinion have been complimentary of our dedicated and caring staff. These stories are shared with the relevant staff and teams to highlight and celebrate their achievements, recognise and reinforce positive behaviours, and increase staff engagement. This contributes to building a strong, positive and person-centred service culture, which in turn, provides for positive and caring experiences for the people who use our services.

Prior to the implementation, District Health Advisory Councils and WA Country Health Service staff had identified that the existing patient feedback mechanisms were generally limited to formal processes and, while useful, may not address the aspects of care that are most important to the consumer. Patient Opinion allows people to provide feedback quickly, via their phone or other electronic device, and for us to respond quickly to that feedback.

View video: It takes a team: Geraldton Health Campus (YouTube)

Over the course of 2017-18, we received 305 stories, and as of 30 June 2018 those stories have been viewed on Patient Opinion 85,144 times. 17 of these stories have led to the implementation of a material change in the way we provide our service. Feedback and responses are openly logged for everyone to view, including our Executive and Board members.

The project continues to be strongly supported by the District Health Advisory Councils and Health Consumers Council WA, and the site is monitored by both local health service staff, as well as local District Health Advisory Council members. In 2017-18 approximately 98.2 per cent of story authors who chose to indicate whether the response they received was helpful, agreed with that statement. You can find the site at

Our values in action

Australian Patients Association names Geraldton Hospital most outstanding regional hospital in Australia

The Australian Patients Association, an independent not-for-profit organisation dedicated to protecting the rights and interest of patients across Australia, said the Midwest hospital had consistently demonstrated an unwavering commitment to public feedback.

Jeff Calver, Regional Director for the Midwest said while delighted to take out the award, listening to patient feedback was integral to providing safe, high quality person-centered care. “It goes without saying that I am exceptionally proud of the entire team at Geraldton Hospital. Whether it be positive, negative or indifferent feedback – it is a hospital that is open about its successes and not afraid to acknowledge lessons learnt.”

Jeff said while the hospital was constantly engaging with the general public, it was only in 2015 they began using the Patient Opinion model. “We were originally part of the pilot program and liked that the platform allowed people the opportunity to provide feedback outside of traditional methods,” he said. “For us it was about facilitating honest and meaningful conversation.”

The Midwest was one of the first regions to go live with Patient Opinion and Jeff said since inception, the region had received more than 138 stories via the service and provided 180 responses. “Of these, close to 100 involve Geraldton Hospital and have been viewed almost 60,000 times,” he said.

“Needless to say, the team has taken full advantage of the feedback and I am confident they will continue to be responsive and agile in the way they deliver health services.”

[Photo (PDF only): Jeff Calver, Derek Fraser and Michele Young in front of Geraldton Health Campus]

Infrastructure program

In regional cities and large towns, emergency, inpatient and outpatient services are being brought together with other important health services in modern, functional buildings to create health care hubs. In smaller towns and districts, emergency departments, hospitals and health centres are being modernised with upgraded facilities, digital systems and telehealth bringing together our experienced regional teams with emergency specialists when required.

The Karratha Health Campus construction is now complete and when the first patients are welcomed in late 2018 it will herald a new era in healthcare facility design for the Pilbara region. The campus is the biggest investment in a public hospital ever undertaken in regional WA. It will have an expanded emergency department, a new surgical centre, state-of-the-art CT scanner, new delivery suites and maternity wing, world-class telehealth services and expanded outpatients and essential services.

This year the State Government announced an exciting commitment for the $73.3 million stage 1 redevelopment of Geraldton Health Campus and a Midwest mental health service. Planning has begun and the investment, which begins in 2020 and occurs over a five-year period, will deliver a combination of new build and refurbished infrastructure. The investment will enable an expanded emergency department and critical care unit; an acute psychiatric unit; a mental health short stay unit; and essential engineering service upgrades to the existing infrastructure.

View video: Karratha Health Campus time lapse (YouTube)

[Photo (PDF only): External Wall artwork being installed at Karratha Health Campus. Title: Metamorphic Life. Material: High fired porcelain with copper and iron glaze. Artist: Ian Dowling]

Also in the Pilbara, construction of the Onslow Health Campus redevelopment in nearing completion with the final stage being scheduled for completion in October 2018.

As part of a half-a-billion-dollar program, upgrades transforming sites in the Wheatbelt, Great Southern, South West and Midwest into contemporary, integrated health services are well advanced. You can read about our building projects on our website.

Construction has continued in Katanning, Narrogin, Northam and Merredin, and in May 2018 the Warren Health Campus project achieved practical completion for the new hospital build component. The new Warren Health Service brings together a range of health services in one convenient location including a contemporary expanded, modern emergency department, upgraded medical imaging and improved technology support for clinicians and patients in Manjimup and surrounding districts. The architecture and design honors the heritage of the district and the finished build makes this hospital a public building of true civic presence and style.

Construction of the innovative Pingelly Health Centre was also completed in early May 2018. The new Health Centre includes facilities for chronic disease prevention and management, as well as an improved emergency department. Cunderdin Health Centre is also progressing and is expected to be operational in November 2018.

[Photo (PDF only): The new Warren Health Service, Manjimup]

Expansion of innovative telehealth services

The use of telehealth, such as videoconferencing and other digital technologies, continues to expand, providing innovative solutions that are improving health service access and the health journey for country people, particularly providing specialist and multi-disciplinary care closer to home.

The "WA Telehealth Future State Plan 2017-2022"details the telehealth technical roadmap including the underpinning information systems and architectures that will support the delivery of both clinical and non-clinical services.

The Emergency Telehealth Service continues to provide regional clinicians with emergency specialist support when treating critically ill and injured country patients. There are currently 79 of our hospitals and other health service sites connected, averaging 1600 consultations each month. On average, 75 per cent of Emergency Telehealth Service patients are assessed, diagnosed, treated and discharged in their home towns. The service operates as a 24-hour, 7 day a week service. In 2017-18 there were more than 1400 staff attendances across 59 Emergency Telehealth Service education sessions held by the telehealth team.

Further expanding our telehealth services, the Rural Acute TeleStroke Service links country emergency departments to metropolitan stroke consultants via telehealth, enabling a joint video consultation with the WA Country Health Service clinical team, the patient, their family and the specialist. This has greatly assisted in early stroke diagnosis and appropriate treatment and transfer where indicated, significantly improving patient recovery and outcomes. This has resulted in a significant increase in country stroke patients’ access to highly specialised, time critical treatment.

[Photo (PDF only): Physio treatment being provided via telehealth]

We are trialling the use of telehealth to deliver cancer care closer to home. TeleOncology has grown significantly across the major specialties of medical oncology, radiation oncology and haematology in the past 12 months, with the emphasis now on expanding services while increasing the ability for people to receive care directly into their homes.

There is an area of sustained growth in outpatient and specialist services with over 1400 clinical consultations done each month with the top five specialties being plastic surgery, respiratory medicine, haematology, orthopedic, gastroenterology with proposed growth in several areas including neurology. This equates with a reduction in country patients’ travel as an estimated 27.3 million kms, reducing inconvenience and costs for country people’s travel and improving timely access to care.

View video: Telehealth is helping thousands of Western Australians (YouTube)

Our values in action

Top health award for unique partnership program

An Australia-first program using telehealth to deliver diabetes education in regional WA, has taken out the Director General’s Award at the 2017 WA Health Excellence Awards. The Diabetes Telehealth Program won the ‘Overcoming inequities’ category and was chosen as the overall winner out of an impressive field of candidates. The program uses telehealth to deliver much needed support to those with the chronic condition and has resulted in increased consumer satisfaction, decreased hospital admissions, and decreased emergency department presentations among users.

The program was developed by WA Country Health Service in partnership with Diabetes WA and later in collaboration with WA Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA). The collaboration allowed each party to contribute with WA Country Health Service providing seed funding, project and governance support along with telehealth infrastructure support. A key success factor of the partnership was the development of greater linkages between the primary health sector and networks to promote the service to a range of key stakeholders including general practitioners across the state and this engagement has been key to its success.

In presenting the award the Department of Health Director General Dr David Russell-Weisz said the Diabetes Telehealth Program had improved the health outcomes and reduced the burden of travel for rural West Australians, while also using health resources more efficiently.

“Diabetes is a leading cause of potentially preventable hospitalisations in Western Australia, particularly in regional areas,” Dr Russell-Weisz said.

"This program, which is the first diabetes educator led telehealth service in Australia, brings equitable and flexible diabetes education closer to home for rural Western Australians.”

Since the program first commenced in 2015 it has received more than 1080 referrals, provided 2397 occasions of service and has been used to deliver professional development to more than 1100 health professionals. Diabetes WA estimate that since the program’s inception close to 1 million kilometres of travel distance has been saved by consumers accessing diabetes education via telehealth rather than access through conventional service models.

The successful partnership between WA Country Health Service, WAPHA and Diabetes WA on this project has been the catalyst for broader collaboration between our organisations in working to ensure greater coordination and improved equity in access to services for consumers across country WA with complex chronic conditions.

[Photo (PDF only): Telehealth is being used to deliver diabetes education in regional WA]

Aboriginal health

Around 21 per cent of the Western Australian population (531,934 people) resides within regional Western Australia. Of this, 10 per cent (52,588 people) identify as Aboriginal people, compared with just two per cent of the metropolitan population. The proportion of Aboriginal people in the population varies immensely between regions, from three per cent in the South West up to 45 per cent in the Kimberley. As Aboriginal people are significantly represented in our country communities the WA Country Health Service strives to ensure that ‘Aboriginal health is everyone’s business.’

This year the State Government has made a commitment to the long term funding of Aboriginal health programs that are improving the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people. The investment provides certainty of funding for programs across the state that support child and maternal health; sexual health education and support; tackling smoking; cancer screening; chronic disease prevention and treatment; improving access to mental health services; as well as promoting a healthy lifestyle and wellbeing. The commitment safeguards the long-term sustainability of Aboriginal health programs delivered in partnership with communities, non-government organisations, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations and other specialist providers.

Seventy three per cent of Aboriginal children suffer from otitis media, a serious ear infection, before reaching their first birthday. Untreated, this can lead to long-term chronic ear disease and hearing loss that can affect learning and social development. In 2017-18 the Earbus Foundation has received an additional $2.7 million in funding to expand the successful Earbus program to the east Kimberley, and into the east Fitzroy Valley. The Earbus service delivery model has been endorsed by the Kimberley Aboriginal Health Planning Forum and key stakeholders have supported the expansion of the service.

The Kimberley Grant Management Committee has overseen the expansion of the service. This vital program offers mobile ear health clinics to Aboriginal children in schools, kindergartens and playgroups, and works with local primary healthcare services to connect the community with General Practitioners, audiologists and ear, nose and throat specialists without duplication. The service, which is already operating in the Pilbara, Goldfields and South West, will provide Aboriginal children in the Kimberley with increased access to ear health screening and treatment services.

Our values in action

Coming Home – Bringing renal dialysis and support services closer to home

A chronic diseases study in 2012-13 showed that nearly one in five Aboriginal people had signs of chronic kidney disease. Those in remote areas were five times more likely to have chronic kidney disease than non-Aboriginal people. For country patients treatment begins in Perth with specialist support and then patients wait for a dialysis chair to become available for them to come home.

The wait to come home can be long and many Aboriginal people report feeling sad and frustrated at being alone and away from their family, friends and community.

"We find that health outcomes are better for people who are able to access treatment close to home as their attendance at dialysis improves, they are more involved in managing and participating in their own care and they have the support of their family and loved ones around them." said Kim Tracey, Clinical Nurse Consultant.

In 2014 the Commonwealth Government funded the $45.8 million Bringing Renal Dialysis and Support Services Closer to Home initiative, of which $3.52 million was invested to refurbish the Kalgoorlie Dialysis Unit, increasing the number of dialysis chairs and bringing more Goldfields people home.

View video: Coming Home: Kalgoorlie Dialysis Unit (YouTube)

Central to providing effective and culturally secure healthcare for Aboriginal people is attracting and retaining Aboriginal staff. The organisation continues to support Aboriginal leadership development, traineeships and the Aboriginal Mentorship Program. Regional Aboriginal health consultant positions have been appointed in the Midwest and Kimberley, and recruitment to the remaining five regions is underway. The consultants are members of the regional executive teams and play a significant role across all aspects of regional business.

In April 2017, we introduced the Aboriginal Entry Level Employment Framework to provide funding to support Aboriginal employees. As of April 2018, the total Aboriginal employee headcount was 413, which equates to 4.4% of the WA Country Health Service workforce. This is above the 3.2% State Government target.

Coming to Perth for specialist treatment can often be a distressing and disorienting time for Aboriginal patients. In 2017 the State Government committed $1.898 million over four years to expand the Country Health Connection Meet and Greet service. The newly expanded service now operates from 6.00am to 10.00pm Monday to Friday and as required on the weekends. This provides eligible Aboriginal patients who travel to Perth for specialist medical treatment with a friendly face to greet them and ensure they arrive safely at their destination.

Similarly, for many Aboriginal people going to hospital can be a difficult and unsettling experience, particularly when English is a second language. The WA Country Health Service, in collaboration with Aboriginal Interpreting WA, is leading the way with a six month trial to provide increased interpreting services in some Kimberley hospitals. The pilot enables Aboriginal interpreters to be on standby to support Aboriginal people and their families in need of medical attention.

The pilot will see hospitals across Broome, Derby, Fitzroy, Halls Creek and Kununurra engage with interpreters to create a health environment where Aboriginal people feel heard and understood.

View video: WACHS is leading the way with unique interpreting service (YouTube)

Photo (PDF only: Josh Pilkington, Aboriginal Health Driver for Country Health Connection meet and greet service]

Our values in action

'Welcome to MK Nation' A Finalist at the WA Health Excellence Awards

The WA Country Health Service, Indigenous Hip Hop Projects and the Meekatharra Shire worked together to develop music video clip to increase awareness of sexually transmitted infections, their prevention and treatment.

'Welcome to the MK Nation’ involved recruiting 12 young Meekatharra locals to work together over five days to devise, write and record their own original song and then film a video clip in various locations around Meekatharra. The video also tackles issues relating to drugs and alcohol when making choices about relationships.

View video: 'Welcome to MK Nation' (YouTube)

Mental health

The WA Country Health Service continues to focus on improving access to services for country people experiencing mental health issues. We do this in partnership with the Mental Health Commission, the WA Primary Health Alliance and other government and non-government agencies.

Over $3 million in additional funding has been secured to increase access to mental health services, in particular for the 0-15 year age group, predominantly in the Midwest, South West, Great Southern and Wheatbelt regions. In the Midwest work is continuing on the development and implementation of a new mental health model of care that is more responsive to consumers. Feedback has shown us that the design of our service needs to ensure that there is ‘no wrong door’ for people to enter our service; the model focuses on ensuring an assessment within 24 to 48 hours and includes an assertive outreach component to reduce the need for mental health clients attend an Emergency Department at times of crisis. The work undertaken in the Midwest will be rolled out in our other regions and will inform changes to the way we deliver mental health services across the state in the future.

Also in 2017, Pilbara and South West Youth Services were established to provide high quality, mental health, wrap-around services while reducing inequality in youth healthcare. These services run in partnership with Headspace and local community alcohol and drug services to ensure comprehensive, coordinated care with a focus on recovery. These services are delivered as an evidence based clinical practice model, which is culturally sensitive and with a focus on promoting consumer centred care.

A pilot of the Emergency Telehealth Service Mental Health after-hours service has been completed and the outcomes of the pilot is informing the future planning of an Emergency Telehealth style mental health service model. The model will enable clinicians to access specialist mental health advice, assessment and support, and will provide assistance with care planning and transfer to other services across WA Country Health Service and to primary care.

In addition to increasing access to mental health services, new training and support programs have been developed to improve the way we deliver services. We have partnered with Murdoch University and the University of Western Australia in two research activities focusing on perinatal mental health and identity development in young people at risk of mental health disorders. The outcome of these research projects will inform the design of our service delivery for these cohorts in the future.

Our Statewide Specialist Aboriginal Mental Health Program continues to provide culturally secure services to Aboriginal people. Additional staffing in this area, including a new leadership position means that the Aboriginal Mental Health workforce will now comprise 10% of our overall mental health workforce.

The governance of our mental health services across country health continues to be strengthened with improved capacity to monitor clinical and corporate performance, safety and quality improvement activities and compliance with the Chief Psychiatrist and other standards.

Nursing and midwifery

This year has seen the development of two major Nursing and Midwifery strategies which have been developed in partnership with our key stakeholders. The WA Country Health Service Cancer Strategy 2017-2022 outlines the directions and priority areas for cancer services across the state. These priorities include investment and improvements in the areas of cancer prevention and screening, enabling a skilled cancer workforce and leveraging technology, innovation and partnerships to provide quality cancer services as close to home as is clinically possible for our country patients.

Similarly, the Maternal and Newborn Care Strategy seeks to guide the expected standards of maternity and newborn care regardless of a family’s place of residence and the mother’s birth location. This includes a focus on improving access to care closer to home through innovative models of service delivery and the creative use of technology. These exciting projects will enhance the delivery of patient care and services throughout country WA.

Midwifery Group Practice allows women and families having a baby to be cared for by a known midwife throughout their pregnancy, during labour and birth, and postnatally. A midwife or small team of midwives provide primary care with medical practitioners. In 2017-18 this model has been introduced in the Wheatbelt offering women a greater choice in all aspects of their pregnancy, delivery and after care.

View video: Celebrating International Nurses Day! (Facebook)

Nursing and Midwifery workforce planning continues to be a key focus with the successful introduction of central casual pools for nurse practitioners, nurse managers and registered nurses and midwives. We have continued to strengthen our future nursing workforce by offering 150 new midwife, registered and enrolled nurse graduates positions.

A nurse practitioner is an experienced registered nurse educated to a masters degree level and are authorised to function autonomously and collaboratively in an advanced and extended clinical role. The WA Country Health Service now has 36 nurse practitioners in place across the state who have been through the formal credentialing process alongside three endorsed midwives who have been credentialed.

Ongoing professional development, education and training is a high priority for the organisation and we have invested in the continued implementation of the Professional Practice Framework which is now firmly embedded across all nursing and midwifery units.

Our values in action

WA Nurse of the Year and Award for Excellence in Rural and Remote Health

WACHS staff member Brett Hayes has been awarded the prestigious WA Nurse of the Year and Award for Excellence in Rural and Remote Health. Brett has achieved outstanding results in his work progressing initiatives which allow people to stay at home in their final stages of care. He has been persistent and committed in building better options for palliative patients and works with them and their families to achieve a patient-centred outcome. Brett also took out the award for Excellence in Regional and Remote Nursing.

The TelePalliative Care in the Home Service led by Brett in the Wheatbelt in 2016 expanded to the Midwest in April 2018 and is shortly to be implemented in the South West and Great Southern.

“If we – as experienced palliative care practitioners – can use telehealth to talk carers through uncertain or stressful times and provide them with support and reassurance, more people in the regions will be able to die at home where they want to, surrounded by their loved ones.” Brett said.

[Photo (PDF only): Brett Hayes pictured with Hon Roger Cook MLA and Meredith Walker of the WA Nurses Memorial Charitable Trust]

Last Updated: 05/05/2021