Improving health in WA

Community information – Southern Inland Health Initiative

Katanning GP on the main street of his community

What can I expect from the initiative?

The Southern Inland Health Initiative covers a wide range of innovative strategies and health reforms as well as a large infrastructure upgrade program across the southern inland region of WA.

Financial incentives and a better work/life balance is helping to attract suitably qualified doctors to join general practices across the network.

Around the clock rosters in emergency departments at the district network hospitals are boosting 24/7 emergency care and the introduction of the Emergency Telehealth Service in 74 small hospitals EDs across the state is significantly improving patient access to specialist emergency care in these towns.

Extensive consultation and services planning has been held across the region to look at the health services and infrastructure that already exists, and how these will meet the future needs of the local population.

A greater focus on primary health care means more patient focused care through:

  • preventing illness
  • maintaining good health
  • managing chronic illness.

Innovative telehealth technology means less travel to the metropolitan area for people with ongoing health condition, or for those requiring post-operative care or specialist check-ups. 

Telehealth enables live videoconference links between local general practitioners or nurse practitioners with specialists in larger, metropolitan public hospitals.

Why are these changes happening?

People in rural areas face a number of health care challenges including distance, access to services and making sure health professionals – such as doctors and nurses – are encouraged to work and stay in country areas over the long term.

Health is also changing.Shifting demographics show that in country areas, there is a greater need to focus on:

  • primary health care
  • aged care
  • management of chronic illness.

People living in country areas expect to receive quality health care from within their own community, or from nearby towns. 

Technology, such as telehealth, is empowering people to better manage their health from their local regional town or nearby town.

Extensive planning around services and infrastructure has been carried out to see how these match community needs and expectations. 

Changes to health services are already benefiting these communities now and will continue to benefit in the future.

Which towns will benefit?

The initiative is building an integrated network of towns to provide long term, appropriate health care to residents in these towns and those in surrounding, smaller towns. The SIHI investment is transforming emergency medical care in southern regional WA, utilising modern technology including videoconferencing, and is vastly improving rosters, accessing and supporting the country medical and emergency workforce.  

The Southern Inland Health Initiative district network towns include:

  • Merredin
  • Northam
  • Narrogin
  • Katanning
  • Bridgetown
  • Manjimup
  • Collie
  • Esperance.

Five district hospitals are receiving significant infrastructure upgrades and a new hospital is being built in Manjimup. These hospitals are:

  • Northam
  • Narrogin
  • Merredin
  • Manjimup
  • Katanning
  • Collie.

What is primary health care?

Primary health care services play a major role in good community health.

These are health services that involve partnerships between the patient, the community and health providers.

Primary health care empowers people to focus on:

  • illness prevention
  • the management of good health into the long term
  • the management of chronic illness.

Primary Care Integration Coordinators have been contracted under the initiative.

The Coordinators work with the local community and health service providers to develop partnerships and links between services across government, private, not for profit and volunteer sectors. 

Their role also includes identifying the health service needs of local communities, and building the capacity of primary health services to meet these needs.

This important work is addressing health issues of vulnerable groups, such as:

  • the elderly
  • Aboriginal people
  • people from non-English speaking backgrounds
  • people requiring mental health support.

It also includes promoting parental and child health.

Primary health care focuses strongly on partnerships. It involves patients having access to a range of services. 

This is demonstrated by the partnership with Silver Chain. Four primary care nurse practitioners have been contracted through Silver Chain to deliver services to communities.

What are primary health care demonstration sites?

Primary health care demonstration sites are dedicated one-stop shop health care facilities.  Just over $40 millon of SIHI capital funding is available to develop a number of these purpose built facilities over the life of the Southern Inland Health Initiative.

The Shires of Pingelly and Cunderdin have nominated to be engaged in the development of Primary Health Care Demonstration Sites that will provide the community with access to a range of health services and providers under one roof. The two new Primary Care Demonstration Sites are being built to replace the existing hospitals, creating fit-for-purpose health facilities to meet the specific needs of the communities.

Similar facilities will be developed at Mullewa and Dongara in the Midwest, through upgrades to the existing health services.

The facilities will bring government, non-government and not for profit services together to promote:

  • good health
  • the prevention and early detection of illness
  • the management of chronic disease within the community

whilst providing 24/7 emergency care, including access to the Emergency Telehealth Service.

More information

Produced by

WA Country Health Service