DArcy Photography Leanne Beagley 070 cropped and resized2

My Health Record – a smarter and safer way to store healthcare information

There is ongoing media interest and discussion around My Health Record now that we are in the opt-out period of the program. I will not be opting out and will have a My Health Record and I encourage individuals and health care professionals across our community to register for a My Health Record as the benefits for individuals, and healthcare generally, are significant.

Unfortunately, some of the information in the media is adding to confusion for individuals, so I thought I would list a few facts on My Health Record.

  • Up until 15 October, people around Australia are being provided with an important choice about how they want to interact with their own health information. After that date, all Australians will have a My Health Record created for them, unless they choose not to have one.
  • Having a My Health Record means an individual’s important health information including allergies, medical conditions and treatments, medicine details, and scan reports can be accessed through one system.
  • Healthcare providers such as doctors, pharmacists, and hospital staff can securely access a record online when a patient needs treatment. For example, hospital emergency department doctors can access records in the case of urgent care.
  • My Health Record system security operates to the highest standards, working with other leading security operations such as the Australian Cybersecurity Centre. It undergoes constant surveillance and threat testing.
  • Individuals can also set additional privacy controls to their My Health Record including what information is uploaded and who has access such as family members, carers and healthcare providers. This empowers people to share and control their health information with doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers from anywhere, at any time.
  • Today, more than 5.9 million Australians have a My Health Record and 12,860 healthcare professional organisations are connected, including GP practices, hospitals, pharmacies, diagnostic imaging and pathology practices. In addition, 6.3 million clinical documents and nearly 21 million medication prescription and dispense records have been uploaded.
  • In western Victoria we have 137,755 individuals registered with a My Health Record and a total of 341 healthcare providers registered.

We encourage GPs and pharmacists across western Victoria to speak to patients about the benefits of My Health Record and distribute the information sent to GPs and pharmacists recently.

More information on My Health Record can be found at www.myhealthrecord.gov.au. People who do not want a My Health Record can opt out by visiting the website or by calling 1800 723 471. 

Dr Leanne Beagley, Chief Executive Officer & Chair, Victorian PHN Alliance


Congratulations to our new Nurse Practitioner Scholarship recipients!
Alternatives to opioids
Bringing primary care together for better dementia care
HealthPathways update
Paediatric care in Victoria: collaboration in action
General Practice Refugee Mental Health Forum
Urology in General Practice Symposium

Ballarat Goldfields 

Oncology and Palliative Care Emergencies Program education

Geelong Otway

Perinatal Morbidity and Mortality presentation
Women's health across the lifespan symposium
Improving the awkward contraception conversation with younger women

Great South Coast 

Diagnosis and management of Syphilis, Gonorrhoea and Chlamydia in Primary Care


Congratulations to our new Nurse Practitioner Scholarship recipients!

PHN Western Victoria Logo medium

In an effort to increase access to medication assisted treatment of opioid dependence (MATOD) in primary care, Western Victoria PHN has awarded three Nurse Practitioner Scholarships to support nurses in our region become Nurse Practitioners specialising in the management of opioid dependence.

Given the increase in problematic use of prescription medications, in particular opioid medication used for chronic pain, increasing the capacity of the whole primary care workforce to manage patients who have dependency issues is essential.

The more options patients have to access treatment for opioid dependence the more likely they are to receive appropriate treatment in a timely manner before their medication usage spirals out of control and affects all facets of their lives.

The scholarships were awarded in Hamilton, Warrnambool and Geelong to nurses working in different primary care settings. We are pleased to announce the following deserving recipients of the 2018 scholarships:

  • Tara Smith from Gunditjmara Aboriginal Cooperative, Warrnambool
  • Suzanne Higgins working at Pritchard Health, Geelong
  • Kathryn Shepherd from the Hamilton Medical Group, Hamilton.

 Suzanne Higgins and Tara Smith

Pictured left to right: Tara Smith and Suzanne Higgins.

Tara Smith applied for the scholarship because she wanted to ‘expand her knowledge and scope of practice by completing further study with a vision of improving service provision for their clients struggling with addiction’.

Suzanne Higgins sees becoming a Nurse Practitioner as an opportunity to provide more accessible health services to people.

“Opioid Dependence has changed over the past decade with more women seeking treatment,” said Suzanne.

“My area of expertise for the past 15 years is in perinatal and infant mental health (PIMH) and applying for a scholarship was motivated by the realisation that perinatal clients are particularly motivated to seek treatment for issues that may prevent them being the parent that they want to be,” said Suzanne.

The Opioid Management Team looks forward to supporting and working with these nurses to manage opioid dependency issues now and in the future.

Alternatives to opioids

PHN Western Victoria Logo medium

It would be fair to say that the opioid crisis is well and truly in our midst. A report produced by the Australian Journal of Rural Health investigating the oxycodone prescribing habits of Western Victoria Primary Health Network GPs found that there were significantly higher rates of prescriptions for oxycodone in the Western Victoria Primary Health Network compared to Victoria and Australia. This report went on to provide research data and methodology that is undeniable and robust in its conclusions.

Global health trends support the significant increase in the rates of opioid abuse and subsequent overdose deaths. Pharmaceutical drug misuse has become a serious problem in Australia with overdose deaths now exceeding the number of road deaths in Victoria. This is leading healthcare providers and patients alike to be cautious about the use of opioids, particularly for use in long term chronic pain. With the insurmountable evidence supporting the use of opioids in short term acute pain management only, recognised side effects, the added risk of dependence and tolerance, many prescribers are actively seeking alternatives to opioids.

It is hoped that the introduction of SafeScript, the Victorian Government’s initiative to reduce the growing harms, including deaths from high-risk prescription medicines will address this major public health concern.

There are many non-opioid pain medications that are available over-the-counter or by prescription, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin, that control pain, lower fevers, and reduce inflammation. Care must be taken; long-term use of NSAIDs can lead to stomach distress or bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract. Also, note that non-aspirin NSAIDs may increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Other non-opioid pain medications include paracetamol, corticosteroids, antidepressants and anti-epileptic medications.

Non-drug treatments include exercise, physical therapy, yoga, acupuncture, cognitive behavioural therapy, biofeedback, chiropractic, injections or nerve blocks, pain pumps, radio waves, electrical signals, spinal cord stimulation and relaxation training. Many of these techniques have shown to provide pain relief, especially for chronic pain.

One of the most promising research areas and a possible future solution involves harvesting stem cells from a patient’s bone marrow and injecting them into an area, such as the lower back, that has become painful because tissue has as deteriorated. The hope is that the stem cells will build new, healthy tissue and relieve the pain for good.

If we are to have any impact on reducing the prescribing, dispensing and ultimate consumption of pharmaceutical opioids in regions like this part of Western Victoria, it is imperative that we consider some of or a combination of the alternatives highlighted in this text.

Western Victoria PHN has developed a number of HealthPathways to support pain management as well as the prescribing of opioids in both the acute and chronic pain setting.

For further reading and resources about alternatives to opioids please see the below articles and links:

For more information or assistance contact:

Geelong region 
 Pene Wood  t: 5222 0800
 Hannah Buttigieg
 t: 5222 0800
Warrnambool region
Amy Collins t: 5564 5888
Raj Samrai t: 5564 5827

Bringing primary care together for better dementia care

PHN Western Victoria Logo medium

General practitioners and practice nurses join forces to improve dementia care in Warrnambool, Hamilton, Colac, Horsham, Ararat, Daylesford, Ballarat and Geelong in August and September this year.

Caroline Gibson (Practice Nurse), Associate Professor Mark Yates (Geriatrician) and Dr Ramesh Sahathevan (Neurologist), all highly skilled clinicians in dementia care, will share their knowledge in a series of ten workshops to be held across the region. The workshops are supported by Western Victoria Primary Health Network and the Lundbeck Neurosciences Foundation. Western Victoria PHN has provided a grant to support Caroline Gibson's research work in partnership with Associate Professor Mark Yates into 'Improving dementia care in primary practice - a nurse enhanced dementia model of care'.

Using the open access online information program - the Dementia Pathways Tool (DPT) – doctors and nurses will be upskilled in dementia diagnosis and the support required to better care for people with dementia from prevention to palliation.

There will be 35,000 people with dementia in Western Victoria by 2050, a 260% increase on the numbers in 2013.

“In general practice 2-3 patients in every 100 consultations will have dementia,” said Associate Professor Yates.

“Dementia is an important condition to identify and include in regular care especially for those with other chronic diseases like diabetes and heart failure,” said Ms Gibson.

Caroline Gibson is a Practice Nurse at Ballarat Community Health. She is a co -author of the DPT and is completing a PhD on the role of the practice nurse in dementia care. Associate Professor Mark Yates is a Geriatrician at Ballarat Health Services with 20 years clinical experience in dementia care and a co-author of the DPT. Dr Ramesh Sahathevan is a Principal Research Fellow with the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Consultant Neurologist at Ballarat Health Services and a faculty member of the Lundbeck International Neuroscience Foundation.

(Hyperlinked to flyer and registration form) 
Ararat Monday 20 August
Ballarat Thursday 16 August
Ballarat Thursday 20 September
Colac Thursday 23 August
Daylesford Thursday 6 September
Geelong  Wednesday 29 August
Geelong  Wednesday 19 September
Hamilton  Thursday 30 August
Horsham Wednesday 8 August
Warrnambool Thursday 13 September

HealthPathways update


New pages:

  • Dyspepsia and heartburn/GORD
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Warts and veruccas
  • Corns and calluses
  • Rheumatology referrals
  • Dermatology referrals
  • Cancer nurse coordination and support.

Reviewed pages:

  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Immunisation - childhood
  • Diabetes cycle of care
  • Referral for termination of pregnancy.

Paediatric care in Victoria: collaboration in action

Safer Care Victoria Victorian PHN Alliance logos2

A collaborative project between Safer Care Victoria and the Victorian Primary Health Network Alliance is providing clear best practice pathways by translating existing paediatric clinical practice guidelines into statewide paediatric HealthPathways.

The Statewide Paediatric HealthPathways Project will deliver up to 30 pathways and measure their implementation across Victoria.

As part of phase two of the project, regional reference groups are currently underway across Victoria to review the paediatric HealthPathways.

These meetings bring together primary care clinicians and specialists across the state to review content for the upcoming pathways and identify barriers and opportunities to providing paediatric care in Victoria.

The first suite of 13 clinical pathways, released in January 2018, focused on respiratory and gastrointestinal conditions. The current phase includes 16 pathways for allergy, ENT, unwell child and neurological conditions of low complexity and high volume. These pathways will be published on Victorian HealthPathways sites with region specific referral information in October 2018.

HealthPathways are developed by a team of General Practitioner clinical editors in collaboration with local GPs, hospital-based specialists, nurses, allied health professionals and other subject matter experts for use in GP consultations.

HealthPathways is a free, web-based tool with relevant, local and evidence-based information on the assessment and management of common clinical conditions, including referral guidance, clinical and patient resources.

For further information, please contact Laura Collins, Project Lead, Statewide Paediatric HealthPathways Project, North Western Melbourne PHN.

General Practice Refugee Mental Health Forum

Four logos 24 July 2018

The Victorian Refugee Health Network in partnership with North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network and South Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network invites you to a one day forum of professional learning for general practice staff. The forum’s aim is to support general practice staff respond to the mental health needs of people from refugee backgrounds, including people seeking asylum.

Date: Saturday 16 August
Time: 8.30am - 5pm
Venue: Woodward Centre, Melbourne University.  

Please visit the forum website for a copy of the program and to register

Urology in General Practice Symposium

The 9th Annual UroGP Symposium is a full day forum that explores a wide variety of urology health issues relevant to GPs and nurses. The program will include presentations by nationally and internationally recognised experts in urology, to further GPs understanding of urological issues, symptoms and treatments for patients young and old. There will also be hands-on workshops for nurses in the afternoon.

Date: Saturday 18 August
Time: 8am - 3pm
Venue: Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre

GPs and nurses receive a complimentary registration with 40 Cat 1 points available.

Please visit the symposium website for a copy of the program and to register. 

Ballarat Goldfields

Oncology and Palliative Care Emergencies Program education

Ballarat Health Services

Presenters from Ballarat Regional Integrated Cancer Centre, Grampians Regional Palliative Care Team and the Leukaemia Foundation will talk on Febrile Neutropenia, Spinal Cord Compression, Superior Vena Cava Syndrome, Airway Obstruction and Massive Haemoptysis, Tumor Lysis Syndrome, Hypercalcaemia of Malignancy. There will also be a question and answer panel discussion.

Date: Monday 13 August
Time: 9am - 3pm
Venue: Education Resource Centre, Ballarat Health Services, Drummond St Nth, Ballarat

Morning tea and lunch will be provided.

Please visit this Eventbrite website to register.

Geelong Otway

Perinatal Morbidity and Mortality presentation


Barwon Health invites you to hear about:

  • Placental abruption
  • Unexpected neonatal death by Dr Adlina Hanafiah and Paediatric team
  • Cat 1 LUSCS/ acute fatty liver by Ms Anna Brown, Dr Shamen Gunawardena and Dr Alice Donnan
  • Unexpected outcome of preterm LUSCS by Dr Shamen Gunawardena and Dr Mindy Miles.

Date: Thursday 26 July
Time: 6pm - 7pm
Venue: John Lindell Lecture Theatre, Level 4, University Hospital Geelong

To find out more, please email Melinda Baulch or call on 4215 2135.

Women's health across the lifespan symposium

Epworth logo

Epworth Geelong invites you to this symposium, which will include question and answer interactive sessions, case studies and rotating workshops covering a wide range of topics including pregnancy risk assessments, pre-eclampsia and bleeding in pregnancy, infections in pregnancy and female bone health.

Date: Saturday 4 August
Time: 8.30am - 4.45pm
Venue: Epworth Geelong Auditorium, 1 Epworth Place, Waurn Ponds

To find out more, including registration details, please see this flyer

Improving the awkward contraception conversation with younger women


MSD invites you to an evening to hear Dr Marilla Druitt (Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, St John of God Hospital Geelong) talk about improving conversations with younger women about contraception.

Date: Thursday 9 August
Time: 6.30pm - 9pm
Venue: Truffleduck, 66 Hyland St, Fyansford

To find out more, including registration details, please see this flyer.

Great South Coast

Diagnosis and management of Syphilis, Gonorrhoea and Chlamydia in Primary Care

VHHITAL and PHN logosMelbourne Sexual Health Centre horizontal logo

VHHITAL, Melbourne Sexual Health Centre and Western Victoria PHN invite GPs and primary healthcare professionals to attend an evening update on Gonorrhoea, Syphilis and Chlamydia in general practice.

Facilitated by Dr Nick Medland, Consultant Sexual Health Physician at Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, this evening update over dinner aims to update and inform healthcare professionals who may see syphilis, gonorrhoea and chlamydia in primary practice.

Date: Tuesday 7 August
Time: 6.30pm - 9pm
Venue: Western Victoria PHN, Bayside City Plaza, 24/36 Fairy St, Warrnambool

To find out more including registration details, please see this flyer.