Mary and Zbys Klich

Not the normal phone call. As part of general preparations for my seventh decade, I'd decided on 21 November to have routine blood tests done, and the usual response from my GP to the annual check up results in the past has been, "Same old...if all my patients were like you I'd be out of business".

I ran a lot, ate well, went to the gym, and drank good wine occasionally. 

But this time it was different: "You should come in, we need to talk".

In his rooms the doctor added, "Everything else is great, however you have an elevated PSA level". He smiled, but seemed cautious.

"In fact, it is substantially elevated".

He was being helpful, but tentative. "In the past it has been 0.5 to 0.9, but this result is 44".

Not good, obviously.

"There may be a number of explanations, but you should be aware that the PSA level is often used to detect early signs of cancer".

Comorbidity project coordinator, Sharmaine Keogh and Rekindling the Spirit Service Manager, Jeff Richardson.

 Lismore-based organisation Rekindling the Spirit (RTS) is reporting positive signs from a federally-funded pilot program aimed at better supporting Indigenous people with co-occurring alcohol and other drug (AOD) and mental health issues.

The Co-Morbidity Model is funded under the Commonwealth Non Government Organisations Treatment Grant Program. It is focused on trialling holistic care for Aboriginal clients in the Richmond Valley area of the Northern Rivers where to date around 56 people over 18 years of age (most in their late 20s - early 30s) have been assessed, supported through counselling and referred to specialist services.

Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt AM

Ice dependency, mental health conditions, suicide prevention and chronic disease are among the targets of $9.1 million federal government funding boost aimed at improving Indigenous health across the NSW North Coast.

Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt AM, visited Ballina, Lismore and Casino on 6 November to talk with providers of innovative services in these areas, commissioned through the North Coast Primary Health Network (PHN).

“The funding supports community driven projects, including mental health, alcohol and other drug services, where local Aboriginal people previously experienced challenges accessing support,” Minister Wyatt said.

The Maze

Almost every day North Coast GPs receive flyers, brochures, letters or faxes advising of a new practitioner in the area, or a new service being opened. The practice address book, even though it is electronic, is overflowing.

The North Coast Primary Health Network's  Health Pathways addresses this problem to some extent. It combines local guidelines with a services directory. However, despite best efforts, recent information is missing and old data is soon out of date.

Government websites like the AHPRA directory state only the suburb and postcode of the practitioner. Commercial entities, such as Health Engine and myDr, have only limited information about practices and their services.

Lismore street after 2017 flood

The University Centre for Rural Health North Coast has experienced major operational growth in 2017, expecting more than 6,500 weeks of placements across the North Coast by more than 1,300 students from 21 universities.

UCRH’s focus has expanded from the original emphasis on training medical students, and it now supports students from 16 health disciplines. Particular growth has been achieved over 2017 in allied health with innovative models of placements developed at aged care facilities and schools, which are delivering positive outcomes for students and their placement organisations.

In order to accommodate the increasing numbers, construction works have commenced on a new 30-bed student accommodation facility at UCRH’s Lismore campus with completion due by mid-2018. Planning is also progressing on two additional student accommodation facilities in the Richmond and Clarence Valleys that will support a further 20 students training in the region.