Annual Report 2020-21 Eyre and Far North Local Health Network

Hon Stephen Wade MLC
Minister for Health and Wellbeing

This annual report will be presented to Parliament to meet the statutory reporting requirements of the Public Sector Act 2009, the Public Finance and Audit Act 1987 and the Health Care Act 2008 and the requirements of Premier and Cabinet Circular PC013 Annual Reporting.

This report is verified to be accurate for the purposes of annual reporting to the Parliament of South Australia.

Submitted on behalf of the Eyre and Far North Local Health Network by:

Verity Paterson
Chief Executive Officer
Eyre and Far North Local Health Network
Date: 30 September 2021

Michele Smith
Chair Governing Board
Eyre and Far North Local Health Network
Date: 30 September 2021

From the Board Chair

One of the greatest strengths of the Eyre and Far North Local Health Network (EFNLHN) as an organisation is its ability to adapt, and never before has this ability been more crucial than in 2020-21. Our second year as an LHN has been dominated by COVID-19 and I am proud to say that EFNLHN has done a fantastic job of managing our response.

By taking an innovative approach, aligned with our core values and strategic priorities, the LHN has set up, run and delivered a vaccination program that has exceeded Commonwealth and State targets. In the background, the LHN has continued to deliver services to remote and rural communities, tested itself against and met the requirements of two sets of national health and safety standards, balanced its budget (excluding COVID costs), and ended the financial year as the best performing LHN in South Australia.

I would like to thank each Member of the Governing Board for the skill, wisdom, and subject expertise they have brought to Board deliberations this year as we have grappled with our response to COVID, our budget pressures, our determination to improve and expand services, as well as a range of other pressing issues.

I would like to recognise the contribution of founding Board Member, Bruce Green, who retired on 30 June 2021. Bruce made a significant contribution to the Board, steering key projects such as the development of our Strategic Plan and Consumer and Community Engagement Strategy, and a service plan for Port Lincoln Hospital. Bruce has been a personal mentor for me over many years and his wisdom, passion and good humour have been invaluable not only to me but to our entire inaugural Board. We sincerely thank him and wish him well in his well-deserved retirement.

We look forward to welcoming new Board Members, Trevor Smith and Christine Thyer, in 2021-22.

The Board launched the EFNLHN Strategic Plan 2020-25 at our Annual Public Meeting in November; due to COVID restrictions, that meeting was held online rather than in the community, as we had planned. The Board also launched companion engagement strategies, the Consumer and Community Engagement Strategy 2020 – 2025 and the Clinical Engagement Strategy 2020 – 2025, making clear our commitment to ensuring our decision making is informed and shaped by consumers and clinicians.

COVID-19 has had an impact on every part of our business this year. Our Executive and staff have gone above and beyond again and again to ensure that local communities have access to testing and vaccinations, working against a backdrop of a fast-moving and changing national COVID response. The Board would like to recognise and thank them.

On behalf of the Board, I would particularly like to thank the mobile vaccination team, led by Tanya Wolf, for the amazing job they have done, travelling over 20,000 kilometres in six months to ensure access to vaccinations across the Eyre and Far North. I would also like to thank our partners for their support and help – including local General Practitioners, local government, Aboriginal health organisations, emergency services, and our health partners, like the South Australian Ambulance Service, Royal Flying Doctors Service, and SA Pathology. As our Strategic Plan says, to be at our best, we need to work in partnership and we are committed to maintaining strong relationships.

Away from COVID, the LHN sought accreditation for the first time as an independent organisation, against the National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards. This allowed us to benchmark ourselves against the best of our peers in Australia. The accreditors visited us for a week and in their summation, spoke warmly about the professionalism and caring approach of our staff. We achieved accreditation against those standards for the next three years and you can see the certificates of accreditation proudly displayed on the walls of our hospitals. We also undertook accreditation against the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) national standards and are the only LHN to have achieved those standards with no unmet actions.
We have continued important work to address the doctor recruitment and retention crisis. The Board spent much of the year planning a transition at Port Lincoln Hospital from a General Practice-led medical service to salaried doctors. A locum GP service was introduced in February 2021 and the LHN will introduce salaried doctors at Port Lincoln Hospital later in 2021, to strengthen and improve both emergency and inpatient services. GP recruitment continues to be one of the greatest challenges we face and we are still a long way off achieving the sustainable medical workforce that communities demand and deserve. We are committed to finding solutions and we will not rest until we have solved this workforce shortage.

In April, the SA Minister for Health and Wellbeing, the Hon. Stephen Wade MLC, visited Port Lincoln to launch Statewide initiatives to strengthen medical services in country SA, including the Rural Generalist Pathway, to offer training and employment opportunities for GP’s locally.

The LHN also continues to work with the Commonwealth, through the Northern Eyre Peninsula Health Alliance, to develop more sustainable approaches to securing and maintaining GP services locally. Trevor Smith, the Chair of the Northern Eyre Peninsula Health Alliance, will join our Board in July 2021 to help us drive this important work.

We worked closely with Aboriginal partner organisations this year, particularly on COVID and ensuring access to testing and vaccinations, and progressed the development of our Reconciliation Action Plan. We improved Aboriginal participation in our workforce and developed an Aboriginal Health Workforce Plan to clearly set out career pathways. We recognise that there is much more to be done, and we have recruited Christine Thyer as the Aboriginal expert on our Board, commencing in July 2021, to help us drive the reconciliation agenda.

All these achievements would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of our Chief Executive officer, Verity Paterson, the steady guiding hand of our Governance expert, Jane Robinson, the Executive Team and staff right across the Network.
On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank them all for their determination and resilience again this year. It has been a challenging and difficult year but real progress has been made and we look forward to building on these achievements next year.

Michele Smith
Board Chair
Eyre and Far North Local Health Network

From the Chief Executive Officer

I am pleased to present the 2020-21 Annual Report from the Eyre and Far North Local Health Network (EFNLHN).

I would like start by acknowledging and thanking our staff and contractors for the incredible job they have done this year, as part of the largest post-war mobilisation in Australia to deliver COVID vaccinations.

In the face of rapid change and intense pressure at times, staff have worked tirelessly and professionally. I would particularly like to thank EFNLHN’s Incident Management Team, which has continued to manage the LHN’s response and adapt to these many challenges, and the COVID vaccination team, led by Tanya Wolf, which has criss-crossed a third of the State, accommodating all comers to ensure access to first and second vaccine doses.

During the year, EFNLHN set up a large standing clinic in Port Lincoln, open five days a week, as well as pop up clinics in many locations, like bowling clubs, sporting venues and town and church halls. The strength of the partnerships we have built with local organisations underpinned these efforts, illustrated by their willingness to assist with resources, people, and awareness raising.

At the same time, EFNLHN has continued to focus on improving the delivery of health, aged care, community, and disability services, meeting key performance targets, retaining our Level 1 performance status with the Department for Health and Wellbeing for the second year running and delivering a balanced Budget, apart from COVID costs, which are accounted for separately.

As part of that improvement work, EFNLHN undertook accreditation against the National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards for the first time as an independent organisation, seeking to benchmark ourselves against the best peer grouped hospitals in Australia. Preparation for accreditation is detailed and time consuming and I would like to thank our Quality, Risk and Safety Team, and Directors of Nursing, led by our Executive Director of Nursing and Midwifery, Julie Marron. EFNLHN achieved accreditation with two areas that needed some attention immediately – improving connectivity at Oodnadatta Health Clinic and completion of a risk management program we had been rolling out across the organisation.

EFNLHN has achieved accreditation against the national standards for the next three years and will continue to learn and improve from involvement in this process.

Consumers and clinicians supported us in the development of a service plan for Port Lincoln Hospital, and work started late in the year on the development of a service plan for Ceduna and surrounding areas. These plans will guide our planning and resource allocation in future years.

Many of these conversations have highlight the shortage of doctors in the Eyre and Far North. I sit on the Commonwealth-funded Northern Eyre Peninsula Health Alliance (NEPHA) on behalf of the LHN and work is well progressed on the development of medical models that are tailored to the needs and priorities of this area while being able to attract and retain doctors. That work will go to the Commonwealth Government early in 2021-22.

The launch of the Rural Generalist Pathway in Port Lincoln this year helped to focus attention on the opportunities that are starting to present in the Eyre and Far North, and plans to negotiate a new GP contract for doctors working in country South Australia in 2021-22 is also a positive step in terms of recognition of the critical role they play in our communities and health system.
Finally, this year EFNLHN started work on the future of aged care services, in the wake of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s final recommendations. We have sought the assistance of the six Health Advisory Councils in the Eyre and Far North to plan and prepare for consultation on what local communities want from aged care services not just now but well into the future. We look forward to continuing to discuss and plan with local consumers, communities and clinicians next year.

I have travelled extensively this year, visited all our hospital and aged care sites, and regularly talked with local government, health, aged care and Aboriginal health leaders, as well as community and consumer representatives. We have a good sense now of what local  communities and consumers are seeking from our services and we will continue to work on improvements, while also supporting the Eyre and Far North to prepare for and be protected from COVID-19. It is likely to be a challenging year again, in terms of the impact of COVID and budgets.

I would like to thank the EFNLHN Governing Board for its support this year. It has been a challenging year in health and the Board has provided guidance and wise counsel. I would also like to thank the Executive Team for their support and hard work.

Verity Paterson
Chief Executive Officer
Eyre and Far North Local Health Network