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Annual Report 2022/23

Chair Report

Michael Wright, Chair of Board

In 2023, I have once again been proud to Chair the Board overseeing Central and Eastern Sydney Primary Health Network (CESPHN). This year saw us shift focus beyond the COVID pandemic and begin delivering on the promise of primary care reform and supporting sustainability of the healthcare workforce.

The primary and community health sectors faced significant challenges including workforce shortages, viability concerns and increased practitioner fatigue.  Encouragingly there is increased optimism with the release of the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce report in April 2023 which identified reform opportunities to boost primary care.

These reform opportunities are being fast tracked for implementation and include funding of major grants initiative for general practice; increases in the Medicare rebate; and the introduction of MyMedicare voluntary patient enrolment system with more reform initiatives to ahead.

There is now greater recognition of the role of allied health and the potential for workforce reforms to support the primary care workforce while improving access to care for those most vulnerable. Over the next year we will work with the Commonwealth to support effective implementation.

We celebrated excellence in healthcare and the key role played by general practice, allied health, and community organisations within our region through the year. We held the first of our annual CESPHN Primary Health Awards to recognise the outstanding achievements of healthcare professionals and organisations that are improving health and wellbeing in our region. The four award recipients and finalists exemplify the importance of integrated healthcare, embracing innovative practices, and fostering partnerships within the Central and Eastern Sydney region.

Another wonderful celebration was WorldPride held in February 2023. We proudly supported Australia’s largest LGBTQIA+ population and the influx of visitors attending this event by funding the operation of general practices for extended hours and working with our local hospital partners and ACON to ensure access to health care during the festival.

Our annual strategy workshop was held in October 2022 at the CESPHN office. The face-to-face format was welcomed by participants and provided opportunities to collaborate and inform CESPHN’s future activity across three priority areas. Discussions influenced the development of the CESPHN Healthy Ageing Strategy, our work on primary healthcare reform and implementation of new initiatives in mental health.

Mental health remains a key priority for CESPHN. We were honoured that Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, The Hon Emma McBride MP launched our Head to Health Canterbury service during the year. Established as a pop-up service during COVID this important service has received ongoing funding. Head to Health centres provide a safe and welcoming space for adults, their family, and friends who may be in distress or crisis. We were also privileged to share the learnings from our CESPHN mental health services at a meeting with the Assistant Minister in April.

The Board has remained busy and is continually seeking to improve its oversight of the governance of the PHN. In the past year the Board held strategic workshops in addition to our Board meetings and with our Aboriginal Advisory Committee to review the organisation’s work in relation to Closing the Gap. Another priority for the board and organisation has been strengthening cybersecurity. I thank my fellow Board directors for their continued commitment to the organisation and their support of primary health care. The Board and I are optimistic for the future and the role that primary health networks play in supporting significant reform in the health sector and responding to the needs of our community.

I thank our CEO, Nathalie Hansen, and the executive team for their outstanding work in delivering on an ambitious agenda to support our local population and the primary care workforce in providing improved access to high quality care. Finally, I thank the CESPHN staff for your hard work and dedication. The Board is very proud of your achievements and feel that CESPHN is well positioned to continue its strong record into 2023/2024.