Annual General Meeting

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At our AGM: Dr Leanne Beagley, Scott Chapman and Jim Elvey

Last week we held our annual general meeting and we were delighted to welcome over 70 guests to the event, including Western Victoria PHN Members, Board members and staff.

Our guest speak, Scott Chapman CEO of the Royal Flying Doctors, was brilliant and his speech was very moving as he reminded us of the mental health challenges for farmers of living on the land, and people in rural and remote areas. He reminded us of the very real impact we can have when we partner across agencies and communities to bring health care to those who are having trouble accessing it.

During the evening two Board members positions were announced. We welcomed Dr Jane Opie to the Board and Mark Harris, who was reappointed to the Board.

We also announced our first appointments for the Clinical Leadership Fund - Dr Nic Brayshaw as our Prevention Clinical Lead; Dr Kellie McDonald as CPD Advisor and two clinical leads for the media - Dr Anne Stephenson (for Geelong) and Dr Amy Litras for Ballarat.

We cannot deliver on our vision and objectives without understanding what is important to general practitioners and primary care providers and what drives high performing primary care delivery. This is why we need clinician participation and why we are committed to actively partnering with western Victoria primary care providers.

Finally, a number of award winners for the year were announced including the Primary Health Care Nurse Excellence Award for 2018, which was won by Beth Royal from Robinson Street Medical Centre in Camperdown, as well as a number of staff awards.

Thanks to all those who worked alongside us and supported us during the last financial year. We look forward to your ongoing collaboration and partnership.

Please see our newly released 2018 Annual Report, which summarises our performance across our five strategic pillars, our health profile, snapshot of our communities and highlights for the year.

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


Dr Jane Opie appointed as our new Board member
Our 2018 Primary Health Care Nurse Excellence Award winner
Fatal illicit drug overdoses on the rise in Victoria
Self-collection cervical screening pathway for under-screened women: state-wide project rollout
HealthPathways update
New occupational cancer e-Learning module
Fifth edition RACGP Standards for point-of-care testing released

Ballarat Goldfields 

Seventy attend annual Immunisation Forum in Ballarat
Next Palliative Care Breakfast
Suicide intervention skills training

Geelong Otway

SafeScript training
Over 85 health professionals attend our Palliative Care Forum
Interventional Cardiology education event for GPs

Wimmera Grampians

Patient cancer care close to home is a winner!


Dr Jane Opie appointed as our new Board member

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At our AGM - Dr Nic Brayshaw and Dr Jane Opie

Following GP, Dr Ric Milner's resignation from the Board earlier this year, our former Medical Advisor Dr Jane Opie was appointed to the Board last Thursday at our Annual General Meeting.

Jane resigned from her position as Medical Advisor in July following 12 years with Western Victoria PHN and previous iterations including the GP Association.

"I am delighted to join the Board. I hope that after many years of working in the organisation as its Medical Advisor and a GP I am well placed to provide the Board with perspectives that enhance the Board's ability in its role providing oversight of key initiatives that build primary healthcare for our community," said Dr Opie.

Interim Director, Dr Deb Harley, was thanked and presented with a small token of our appreciation for stepping into the gap until a replacement was appointed.

It's great to have Jane back in the fold!

Our 2018 Primary Health Care Nurse Excellence Award winner

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Pictured from left to right: Deputy Chair, Jim Elvey, Beth Royal and CEO Dr Leanne Beagley. 

Beth Royal from Robinson Street Medical Centre in Camperdown was the proud recipient of Western Victoria PHN's 2018 Primary Health Care Nurse Excellence Award for her Cancer Screening Collaboratives Cervical Screening project.

The aim of this project was to increase women’s participation in cervical screening. To do this Beth organised:

  • Review of their recall system
  • The cleansing of data
  • Participation and engagement of the wider team
  • Marketing and education of patients including information on new guidelines
  • One on one education with clinicians of new guidelines including reference materials in rooms such as Test Order Quick Reference Guides
  • Regular liaison with VIC Cytology on test results or questions on new guidelines
  • Provision of feedback to the Director of Education and Liaison Services on results received.

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Pictured from left to right: Glenda McIlveen, Dr John Menzies, Beth Royal and Jenny Hirth

Beth and the team at Robinson Street Medical Centre Camperdown achieved all of the above and most importantly increased patient cervical screenings by ten per cent.

The Primary Health Care Nurse Excellence Award 2018 Winner will receive $1,000.00 to support continuing professional development expenses such as course or conference registration fees.

Well done to Beth and the team! 

Fatal illicit drug overdoses on the rise in Victoria

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With codeine rescheduling and the introduction of SafeScript looming one could be forgiven to thinking illicit drugs no longer pose a risk to our communities. However, a 2018 Coroner finding indicated fatal illicit drug overdoses are on the rise in Victoria. Statistics of overdose death by individual contributing drugs showed 127 fatal heroin overdoses in 2009 and 220 deaths in 2017. During this time, heroin contributed to 1340 fatal overdoses that involved more than one drug.

While the majority of heroin-involved overdoses occurred in the metropolitan Melbourne area, the greater Geelong region remains the highest local government area outside the metropolitan areas for heroin-involved over-doses, followed by Bendigo and Ballarat. Of the 138 fatal heroin related overdoses in regional Victoria between 2012 and 2017, 48 of those fell within the Western Victoria Primary Health Network region.

Western Victoria PHN is urging all GPs and pharmacists to prescribe and dispense Naloxone with an opioid script or when providing fit packs to consumers. Naloxone is a lifesaving antidote to all opioids and can be administered by anyone.

If you are a GP or pharmacist and would like to prescribe or dispense Medication Assisted Treatment of Opioid Dependence (MATOD), Western Victoria PHN can assist with training travel and accommodation subsidies, GP mentoring and pharmacy mentoring.

For further information please contact Western Victoria Pharmacotherapy Clinical Consultants Raj Samrai on 5564 5827 or Hannah Buttigieg on 5222 0800.

You can also see HealthPathways for information on Opioid dependence, Medication Assisted Treatment of Opioid Dependence and Naloxone.

Self-collection cervical screening pathway for under-screened women: state-wide project rollout

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The ‘Self-collection project’ will support the introduction of cervical screening self-collection as an alternative pathway for under screened women in Victoria.

The Cancer Council Victoria with funding from the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), in collaboration with VCS, primary health networks (PHNs), and primary care service providers are delivering the project.

The project aims to support cervical screening providers to make the necessary system changes and adopt best practice approaches, utilising resources and education to promote the availability of self-collection to eligible women across the state.

It is only available to women who are aged over 30 and are either overdue for a Cervical Screening Test by two years or longer, or have never been screened and have declined a Cervical Screening Test from a health professional.

To find out more, please see this information sheet.

HealthPathways update


New pages:

  • Transient monocular vision loss
  • Sudden or recent vision loss
  • Fitness for surgery
  • Physical activity - adults
  • Bunions (Hallux Valgus).

Reviewed pages:

  • Colonoscopy screening and surveillance
  • Bone density scan (DXA).

To stay up to date on recent, locally agreed guidelines see HealthPathways.

New occupational cancer e-Learning module

Cancer Council No Workplace Cancer logo 

In some Australian workplaces, employees are exposed to a diverse range of possible carcinogens at higher concentrations and for longer periods than the general public. It has been estimated that 3.6 million Australians are exposed to at least one carcinogen at work and approximately 5000 cancers each year are caused by workplace exposures.

It is essential GPs have the knowledge and skills to be able to assist patients in monitoring their health, identifying potential risks and be able to provide or direct patients to further information if working in high-risk jobs with known carcinogens.

Cancer Council has developed an e-learning module to increase GPs’ awareness of workplace carcinogens and cancers. The module includes sections on occupational carcinogens in the Australian context, the role of an exposure history, common occupational cancers including lung, skin, bladder and mesothelioma, and the Australian compensation system.

The 60-minute module is accredited with both RACGP and ACRRM. You can complete the module by registering at

Fifth edition RACGP Standards for point-of-care testing released


The RACGP is pleased to release the Standards for point-of-care testing (5th edition) (the Standards). The Standards have been developed to improve the quality and safety of point-of-care testing performed by general practices.

The RACGP developed the Standards following extensive consultation with stakeholders and piloting in general practices over a 12-month period.

Currently, regulatory and accreditation requirements for pathology services mean that general practices seeking accreditation for point-of-care testing need to undergo Class M laboratory accreditation which is onerous, costly and not fit for purpose.

The RACGP is pleased to release the Standards for point-of-care testing (5th edition) (the Standards). The Standards have been developed to improve the quality and safety of point-of-care testing performed by general practices.

The RACGP developed the Standards following extensive consultation with stakeholders and piloting in general practices over a 12-month period.

Currently, regulatory and accreditation requirements for pathology services mean that general practices seeking accreditation for point-of-care testing need to undergo Class M laboratory accreditation which is onerous, costly and not fit for purpose.

By developing the Standards, the RACGP is seeking to lay the foundation for a fit-for-purpose, quality accreditation framework for point-of-care testing in general practice.

The benefits of point-of-care testing include:

  • The ability to make immediate and informed decisions about patient care
  • The potential to improve clinical management and patient health outcomes
  • Greater convenience and satisfaction for patients – given the speed of diagnosis and treatment decisions
  • More opportunities for patient engagement with the practice team.

To download the Standards, visit the RACGP website. For more information, contact

Ballarat Goldfields

Seventy attend annual Immunisation Forum in Ballarat

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Forum Facilitator, Dr Jenny Royle

Seventy people attended our annual Immunisation Forum for nurse immunisers on Saturday 20 October 2018 at the Mercure Hotel in Ballarat.

Participants attended this event not just from the Ballarat Goldfields area but also from across the whole western Victoria catchment and beyond.

The program was organised by Alison Elliot, Immunisation Lead with the event coordinated by Mebin Baby, Primary Care Consultant Ballarat Goldfields.

The day commenced with a warm Welcome to Country by traditional Wadawurrung owner Bonnie Chew and a brief welcome address by Diane Sartori, Senior Manager Ballarat Goldfields.

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Sonya Elia (left) and Dr Amy Litras (right) speaking to participants.

The forum was facilitated by Dr Jenny Royle (Immunisation Paediatrician) who, along with other presenters including Sonya Elia (Royal Children’s Hospital), Chelsea Taylor (DHHS), Janet Strachan (DHHS) and our very own Dr Amy Litras (HealthPathways GP Editor) shared their knowledge and expertise on immunisation with the participants.

The nurses were very keen to hear the presenters throughout the day and found the sessions very informative and interactive.

Some interesting comments received in the evaluation forms include:

  • Very interesting and informative day – thank you for that
  • Jenny Royle is a legend. Please have her for all future immunisation events
  • It's great to have access to an immunisation forum in Ballarat instead of having to go to Melbourne or Geelong for that
  • Needed clarification on pneumococcal vaccinations – Oh! I will probably just check HEALTH PATHWAYS.

Next Palliative Care Breakfast

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Ballarat Hospice invites you to hear Dr Greg Mewett, Palliative Care Physician, speak on Voluntary Assisted Dying at their next Palliative Care Breakfast.

Date: Thursday 15 November
Time: 7.45am - 8.45am
Venue: The City Oval Hotel, Cnr Mair & Pleasant Streets, Ballarat

A complimentary light breakfast will be served. Please RSVP and provide any dietary requirements by Monday 12 November by contacting Ballarat Hospice on 5333 1118 or via email.

Suicide intervention skills training

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This training will show you how to recognise when someone may be at risk of suicide and how to apply a suicide intervention model.

You will learn how to explore and connect with a person in ways that help you to understand and clarify the risk, increase their immediate safety and link them with further help.

ASSIST is founded on the principle that everyone can make a difference in preventing suicide.  The more people in the community who have suicide intervention training, the more likely it is they will be able to identify someone at risk and intervene to keep them safe.

Date: Thursday 22 November and Friday 23 November
Time: 8.45am - 5pm (both days)
Venue: Peart Wing, 103 Lydiard St Sth, Ballarat 

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

Geelong Otway

SafeScript training

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Make sure you are ready by attending this CPD accredited SafeScript training which covers the what, when, how of the SafeScript system, high-risk medicines and clinical practice and having challenging conversations with your patients about high-risk medicines.  This training is primarily aimed at prescribers and pharmacists, although all interested health professionals are welcome to attend.


Caroline Morris
In her role as a Clinical Services Specialist, Caroline delivers the Educational Visiting Service for NPS MedicineWise in the north western regions of Melbourne and Victoria. She has been a pharmacist for almost 30 years, working in community, hospital and industry settings in both Australia and the UK and has completed post-graduate studies in Alcohol & Other Drugs.

Pene Wood
Pene is a community and accredited pharmacist with 10+ years experience. Pene lectures in Clinical Pharmacy at La Trobe University and is the Quality Use of Medicines Lead at Western Victoria Primary Health Network.

Date: Thursday 15 November
Time: 6pm (registration) for 6.30pm start - 8.30pm
Venue: Western Victoria PHN, 131 Myers St, Geelong

This event is available in person or via webinar.

Please see our website to register or contact 5222 0800 for further information.

Over 85 health professionals attend our Palliative Care Forum

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Pictured left: Dr Leanne Beagley speaking at Palliative Care Forum. Pictured right: A Tango demonstration.

Western Victoria PHN together with Hospice Foundation Geelong hosted the annual Palliative Care Forum on Thursday 18 October.

Over 85 health professionals attended the fully sponsored event at Truffleduck and were provided a spread of presentations covering the topic “Living and Dying with Dignity”.

Commencing with a Welcome to Country by Wadawurrung traditional owner Corrina Eccles and an overall welcome by CEO, Dr Leanne Beagley, the evening was packed with thought provoking ideas centering on dignity.

Attendees heard the following presentations by the these health professionals:

  • Dr Claire Darby – Concept of Dignity
  • Dr Nic Brayshaw – Cultural and social view of dignity
  • Dr Ric Milner and Dr Michael Homewood – Exercise and cancer
  • Dr Wolfgang Marx – Nutrition and palliative care
  • Pam and Richard Jarvis – Gentle Tango
  • Russell Armstrong – Dignity Therapy
  • Ass Prof Charlie Corke – Advanced Care Planning changes
  • Dr Greg Mewett – Voluntary Assisted Dying Act.

Health professionals were surprised to hear that tango dancing was suitable for even very frail people and supported peoples' personhood and were treated to a special performance by ‘Gentle Tango’.

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Sue White (Hospice Foundation) with Dr Trevor Banks presenting awards to Dr Nigel Lambert, Dr Elmir Diviney and Dr Caroline Murtagh.

The Hospice Foundation Geelong awarded the Trevor Banks Scholarship to five worthy recipients:

  • Caroline Murtagh
  • Jacqueline Ford
  • Rachelle Smith
  • Nigel Lambert
  • Eimir Diviney.

The scholarship is an annual award of up to $5,000 to assist a Geelong general practitioner to attend a national or international educational event related to palliative care. It is named to recognise the outstanding contribution of Dr Trevor Banks OAM, who established a palliative care service in Geelong in the 1970’s.

The second part of the evening was reserved for presentations and discussion on advanced care planning and the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act and ended with an extended discussion on both topics.

Participant’s comments included:

  • Thought provoking
  • Good opportunity for discussions
  • Learned about alternative therapies such as dignity therapy and exercise
  • Excellent evening
  • Very informative event.

For those that could not attend, these presentations can be found on the PHN Learning Hub.

Interventional Cardiology education event for GPs

Pulse Cardiology  St John of God Geelong Hospital

Pulse Cardiology and St John of God Geelong Hospital would like to invite you to attend an education evening where the following topics will be by Dr Thomas Yip, Dr Daryl Ridley and Dr Aref Arjomand.

Left Atrial Appendage Occlusion: What is it and what do I need to know?
Discuss non-pharmacological interventional options for stroke prevention in patients with atrial fibrillation who cannot tolerate anticoagulation medications.

Advances in Cardiac Pacing: What has changed?
Discuss advances in cardiac pacing in recent years and implications for patients.

Date: Wednesday 14 November
Time: 6pm for 6.30pm start
Venue: Empire Grill, 66 McKillop St, Geelong

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

Wimmera Grampians

Patient cancer care close to home is a winner!

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Kathy Poulton assisting a patient.

A Warracknabeal cancer patient who has not been able to travel to see her oncologist in Ballarat due to pain and severe nausea was able to have a telehealth consultation at home in Warracknabeal recently.

Kathy Poulton, Rural Northwest Health Cancer Wellbeing Coordinator, supported the patient by linking them to Dr Prashanth Prithviraj, Oncologist in Ballarat and Carmel O’Kane, Oncology Nurse Practitioner in Horsham.

This was the first multi-consultation via telehealth link of the Wimmera Cancer Telehealthcare project using Healthdirect – a web based platform. The patient was able to see these two clinicians using an iPad with internet connection.

“It was very clear and easy to understand everything. There was no delay and I was so much more comfortable not having to travel," said the patient.

Kathy Poulton who assisted the patient during the telehealth consultation noted that this patient was able to participate and talk much more freely during the consultation, as they were not in pain from the three hour trip from Warracknabeal to Ballarat.

"She was a bit nervous before the telehealth link but as soon as we connected and she could see both Dr Prashanth and Carmel on the screen, she relaxed," said Kathy.

Oncology Nurse Practitioner, Carmel O’Kane also felt the telehealth consultation was a success.

“It was actually better than a face to face consultation for this patient as using telehealth meant the patient wasn’t in even more pain from sitting in a car travelling. We know that there are patients who will refuse to travel as they feel so unwell and telehealth allows us to bring specialist care to these patients," said Carmel.

Dr Prashanth was also very impressed with the telehealth consultation and is looking forward to scheduling more of these in the future.

Further telehealth consults are booked in and it is now a case of promoting the service across the Wimmera. The project is also extending telehealth to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre for haematology patients and this will commence later in 2018.

See the card below for instructions and contact details to book a consultation.