Image by Paul Brennan from Pixabay

“All in all you’re just a
'nother brick in the wall.”
Pink Floyd, 1979

For many Australians the end of 2020 will engender a huge sigh of relief ... it was a bastard, but we’ve made it! As the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear as Autumn began, our collective anxiety levels rose.

There was a great fear of the unknown as well as of possible serious infection and even death. Nations embarked upon real-time experiments on the best ways to control a pandemic where, unfortunately, no control groups existed.  

There was uncertainty about how the disease was spread and what measures were effective in controlling  it. There was soon recognition that the disease was far more lethal in the elderly than the young. Some countries decided to follow a herd immunity approach to the pandemic. Many considered such an approach was not only unethical but cynical, and it was not widely adopted. After all, the elderly vote. 

Paget Michael Creelman, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

There were few if any surprises contained in the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into mental health, with the near-final report delivered to the Australian Government in June made public near the end of 2020. 

Some 63 pages into the 1273-page document the reader sees 21 key recommendations emerging from widespread community consultations and the deliberations of three eminently qualified commissioners, led by Professor Stephen King from Monash University.

  1. Create a person-centred mental health system? Tick. 
  2. Support the social inclusion of people living with mental illness? Tick. 
  3. Focus on children’s wellbeing across the education and health systems? Tick 
  4. Support the mental health of tertiary students? Tick 
  5. Take action to prevent suicide? Tick, tick, tick

Kyleena versus Mirena

Noteworthy stories in the medical media have highlighted a general lack of education and procedural training for GPs around the topic of long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCS), used by 12% of women in Australia compared with 15% in comparable countries. 

Although usage has increased in recent times, we still lag behind other countries, and the uptake rate has plateaued rather than increasing.

PHN

In the front line of general practice, Quality Improvement (QI) can be hard to get to. The needs and challenges presented by patient care, service demand, human resources and business viability fill every day to capacity (and that’s before you add a global pandemic into the mix). 

That’s why Healthy North Coast (HNC) launched new online resources in late May via the “Primary Care Impact (PCI)” website, to make it quicker and easier to plan and initiate quality improvement. PCI offers pre-populated quality improvement topics with links to key resources as well as a few basic improvement ideas to get the ball rolling.

It also provides a PDSA (Plan-Do-Study-Act)template embedded with simple strategies to help ensure success. These include canvassing staff on what difference they believe the quality improvement will make, how important it is  to them to do it and how confident they are that the team will succeed.

Blueberries

The fruit commonly associated with Coffs Harbour is the banana, plantations of which have covered the steep hillsides fringing the North Coast town for decades. So celebrated was the crop that it spawned one of Australia’s roadside attractions known as the ‘Big Things’.

Now, changing times and tastes have created a market for a more valuable fruit, the blueberry, a native of North America, and netted plantations have rapidly taken over much of the land previously under bananas.

The industry, like its banana forebear, is dominated by industrious farmers of Sikh Indian background – Woolgoolga hosts the biggest Sikh temple on the east coast, and the State MP is of Sikh heritage.

It is hard to imagine the construction of a ‘Big Blueberry’, especially as the Big Banana Fun Park has been upgraded in recent times, but the popularity of the ‘superfood’ continues to grow.