Sydney University occupational therapy student Monalisa Atmawijaya helping Kyogle Public School year 5 student Deacon Farrell.

Final year students from university level physiotherapy and occupational therapy (OT) courses continue to fan out across the Northern Rivers to get hands-on experience with clients both elderly and young.

The benefits flow both ways for students opting for rural placements rather than staying close to the University of Sydney where they are studying.

The placements are coordinated by the University Centre for Rural Health, headquartered in Lismore with campuses in Murwillumbah and Grafton. The UCRH arranges practicum placements for medicine, dentistry, physio and OT students throughout the year in a range of facilities, from hospitals to GP clinics, aged care homes to pre- and primary schools.

Physiotherapist and researcher Jennie Hewitt with Feros Care Wommin Bay residents (l-r) Cleo Bell, Julie Knox and Bren Catchpole, and USydney physiotherapy students Dom Dagher and Chelsea Clark.

A PhD research study being undertaken by physiotherapist Jennie Hewitt is showing that tailored exercise programs can deliver significant benefits for elderly residents in aged care facilities.

The study, the first of its kind ever conducted in Australia or internationally for residents of aged care, has shown improvements of up to 50 per cent in mobility and falls-reduction in participants doing a program focusing on resistance and balance exercises.

A total of 221 people aged 70 to 101 years (mean age: 86) have been involved so far. The results are immensely encouraging, according to Ms Hewitt, who is the Positive Living Coordinator for Feros Care in the Northern Rivers.

The Northern NSW Local Health District has partnered with the North Coast Primary Health Network to reduce the burden of winter flus and secondary infections on the community and hospital system. 

Part of the Winter Strategy involves identifying patients at high risk of admission and providing patient education about their diseases and how to manage them effectively, and to seek assistance from their usual GP and surgery at the first signs of deterioration. 

A milestone North Coast study of young people’s condom usage has won a national excellence award for a team of medical students undertaking clinical placements coordinated by the University Centre for Rural Health North Coast (UCRH).

The five University of Western Sydney students who conducted the 2016 study have since graduated and gone on to become doctors. The recipients of this year’s Health Specialist Medical Award sponsored by ANZ Health are Drs Daniel Brieger, Sukhita De Silva, Karina Hall, Benjamin Pfister and Daniel Youlden.

At the time they were undergoing a series of UCRH-coordinated clinical placements in the Northern Rivers. The then-students were encouraged to develop a research project by UCRH researcher Dr Sabrina Pit who helped them liaise with the North Coast Public Health Unit to conduct a face-to-face survey of people aged 18-29 years attending a North Coast music festival.

Dr Michael Gannon and Professor Bruce Robinson

Skyrocketing Medicare benefits payouts for after-hours doctor home visits have prompted a closer examination of the issue by the government’s Medicare Benefits Schedule Review Taskforce and drawn strong criticism by the Australian Medical Association

Key recommendations in the clinician-led Taskforce’s recent interim report Urgent after-hours primary care services funded through the MBS included:

  • restricting the use of the high value urgent after-hours items so that medical deputising service doctors and practitioners working predominantly in the after-hours period are excluded from billing these items
  • providing a clearer definition of what is considered to be urgent for the purposes of the MBS urgent after-hours items, including changing the requirement to ‘urgent assessment’ as opposed to ‘urgent treatment’
  • removing the current right of patients to make an urgent after-hours appointment two hours before the commencement of the after-hours period.