IN wrapping up our five-part investigation into the inaugural West Moreton Health’s Local Area Needs Assessment Report, we look ahead to the future of our region and ask, is our health force prepared?
After examining the region’s mental health crisis, the social barriers restricting better health outcomes, our ageing and exploding population and discussing our rural community’s unique issues, it is clear our region faces many complex challenges in the years ahead.
WMH will need to ensure they are fully prepared because as the LANA Report laid bare, there are troubling rises in diabetes, obesity and other preventable chronic illnesses, and consequently emergency presentations at all our major hospitals are on the rise.
At the launch of the LANA Report, Chair of the West Morton Health Board Michael Willis said strengthening partnerships in the community will be key to preparing for these challenges ahead.
“Our focus is on providing safe, quality care, listening to our patients and addressing their needs,” Mr Willis said.
“It requires us to continually improve what we do, using emerging technology wisely, lifting our clinical capabilities, and providing the right resources and infrastructure for our team.”
Promisingly, by 2027 stage two of the 710-million-dollar Ipswich Hospital expansion will be due for completion and includes expansions to the emergency department, renal and nephrology services, and the construction of a new theatre.
Most importantly though it will include an additional 200 new beds on the site of the existing mental health unit.
Rurally too, a satellite hospital and 90-bed facility at South Ripley is well underway and due for completion in late 2023.
Mr Willis said these capital works programs along with upskilling the regions healthcare workforce will be the centrepieces of WMH’s plan to prepare for the complex future ahead.
“Our strategy is all about people; making sure we have the best and brightest, and most committed team, with the clinical capabilities to really care for this community,” he said.
West Moreton Health Chief Executive Hannah Bloch agreed, saying the first ever LANA report has given the region a clear indication as to the gaps in healthcare delivery.
“We know we have a challenge ahead of us, but we have done our research and identified the key health and service needs for the region,” Ms Bloch said.
“This work will help us to determine the mix of services, equipment, staff, technology, facilities and locations we need to achieve our vision of a thriving community.”
“Our analysis set out to identify which West Moreton communities were experiencing higher than average rates of disease and why some communities had more trouble accessing healthcare
“Our task now is to find ways of overcoming the challenges we identified because our goal is to see all West Moreton residents achieving their best possible health and wellbeing.
“One way we will do this is by making our services and facilities more welcoming for First Nations consumers, so they feel comfortable accessing healthcare.
“Another strategy is to continue refining the care we provide to the region’s prisoner population, providing the services those consumers need most while they are in prison and after they leave.
“The LANA report has also given us new insights into the burden of chronic diseases on our communities, the impact of social factors on health, and the mental health of our young people.
“These insights will inform our engagement with consumers about the services we already provide and those that are still in the planning stages.”
And with telehealth services across the region skyrocketing by 94 per cent between 2019 and 2020, it is hoped these types of innovations will play a key role in WMH’s preparedness.
Ms Bloch also acknowledged the issues found by the LANA Report cannot be solved by WMH alone.
“We will be partnering with community groups, local healthcare providers, key partner organisations and our staff to overcome the challenges identified,” Ms Bloch said.
Challenges remain within the WMH workforce too, which the LANA Report noted continues to face shortages, particularly in rural areas.
“Over the next few years, we will undertake a massive recruitment drive as our hospitals and facilities expand to keep pace with population growth,” Ms Bloch said.
“Our workforce is our greatest asset, and we will prioritise its development.”
Ms Bloch announced that the LANA Report will be refreshed each year, with the next report expected to be completed by late 2023.