Our target market includes students enrolled at UNE, UNE staff and members of the surrounding community.
Unfortunately, our community has lost more than ten general practitioners over the past year, leaving over 6,000 residents without a regular GP in our town of approximately 23,000 people.
The median age of the Armidale population is 36 years, with slightly more females than males.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2021), the most common long-term illness in Armidale is mental health issues, followed by asthma, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer in order of occurrence. The high prevalence of chronic conditions underscores the importance of our proactive primary healthcare approach, which focuses on addressing these health challenges.
Our strategy includes preventative measures to raise awareness of factors contributing to chronic illnesses and the provision of team-based, integrated multidisciplinary care solutions for patients with chronic conditions.
We recognise the critical issue facing Armidale and other rural, regional, and remote (RRR) communities—a steady decline in locally-based healthcare service providers. This decline contributes significantly to the health outcome differential between Australia’s urban and RRR populations and we understand the urgency of addressing this crisis.
We also acknowledge the importance of national policy instruments and positive initiatives designed to encourage healthcare service providers to locate or relocate to RRR towns. Initiatives such as the National Rural Generalist Pathway and the Workforce Incentive Payments are steps in the right direction.
Furthermore, we appreciate the substantial efforts of the NSW Parliamentary Committee on Health outcomes and access to health and hospital services in RRR NSW (2020-2022). Their work has led to valuable recommendations and strategies aimed at improving healthcare in RRR NSW. These recommendations have been incorporated into recent policy documents that will shape our approach to healthcare service provision. Notable policies include the NSW Future Health Report (2022-2032) and its associated NSW Future Health Strategic Framework (2022-2032), the NSW Regional Health Strategic Plan (2022-2032) and its Priority Framework, and the NSW Virtual Care Strategy (2021-2026).
We are also keenly aware of the positive impact of continued investment in RRR healthcare, which extends to the social and economic well-being of individuals, communities, and towns. Access to healthcare services and healthcare professionals is vital for the health and well-being of RRR populations.
To fulfill our commitment to serving our local community and the wider region, and to meet our legislative obligations while adapting to the changing needs of our local population, we remain dedicated to collaborative efforts with community members and government agencies. Together, we work on implementing various strategic initiatives.
These currently include:
We believe that successfully implementing our integrated, flexible model of hybrid healthcare in the New England North West region could serve as a model for broader implementation, ultimately enhancing healthcare access and health outcomes for remote, regional, and rural (RRR) populations across Australia. Our goal is to provide the necessary healthcare to communities in need, precisely when and where it’s required.
In collaboration with Armajun Aboriginal Health Service, our Centre’s staff conducted mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinics at over 39 locations throughout the New England North West region of NSW, administering more than 7,100 vaccinations during the pandemic.
We were honoured to receive the Patients First Award for this service at the Primary Health Network’s 2022 Primary Care Quality and Innovation Awards.
Our commitment to serving our communities and the broader New England population remains unwavering, and we will continue to offer mobile health clinics and distance-based services as needed. Looking ahead, we are excited about future mobile initiatives and digital integrations to further enable healthcare tools and services, providing our patients with an even broader spectrum of support.
Our Communications and Marketing Strategy will employ a variety of channels, both online and on-air, as well as through hard copy and news services.
Our goal is to consistently provide information about the UNE Healthcare Centre and its services to the UNE student community, Armidale communities, and the wider New England North West region.
We aim to position our Centre as a friendly and community-minded healthcare service that adopts a holistic approach. Our focus is on supporting preventative healthcare initiatives and addressing the current and future healthcare needs of our region through our hybrid healthcare model.
To achieve this, we will revamp the UNE Medical Centre website to re-brand and update information about UNE Healthcare Centre and its staff. Additionally, we will feature information about national, NSW, and local district healthcare policy initiatives that are integrated into the Centre’s activities. Our website will also include links to the Centre’s Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, where we will share updates on our expanding service offerings, details about upcoming online and in-person community workshops, links to on-air interviews and podcasts in which we are involved, and notifications about community outreach clinics, such as our mobile vaccination service.
Furthermore, we will include communication messages and collaboration opportunities aligned with these delivery horizons to facilitate the realisation of our goals, raise awareness of the Centre’s activities, and celebrate successes. Messages and engagement opportunities pertaining to the three-year and five-year delivery horizons will be developed in collaboration with Centre staff at the end of 2024.
This timing will ensure that all staff are on board, working relationships and processes have been established, and guidelines to support consistent working methods have been approved.
We are transitioning to a bulk billing strategy as part of our Proactive Primary Healthcare model, necessitating changes to our current pricing structure.
At UNE Healthcare Centre, we offer bulk billing to UNE students and patients holding a healthcare concession card for short consultations (5-10 minutes) and standard consultations (15 minutes).
For community members without a UNE student card or healthcare concession card, our pricing is as follows:
Please note that additional fees may apply for procedures and specialist appointments.
Our Operational Plan will set out the Centre’s aims against a 5-year delivery horizon.
The Plan will detail our strategy for transitioning from the current GP practice to an integrated, coordinated and multidisciplinary healthcare service, focused on preventative and holistic care. This transformation will be progressively enhanced and extended with the support of a digitally enabled model of care and a customised digital toolkit.
Within this plan, we envision expanding beyond our current staffing cohort, including four GPs, two registered nurses, and administrative staff. Collaboratively working with HNECC PHN and HNE LHD, we aim to attract and recruit staff, exploring both traditional and alternative staffing models to maximise our community reach over time.
As we foster collaborations with local and external service providers in the New England region, our goal is to provide a comprehensive, integrated service, incorporating specialist and allied health professionals through local Service Level Agreements.
Currently, the UNE Medical Centre operates from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm, with appointments scheduled between 9.00 am and 4.30 pm, Monday to Friday. Appointments can be made in person, over the phone, or online through the HotDoc website or mobile app. UNE Life aspires to expand the Centre’s service hours to include weekends, pending the successful securing of funding for an Urgent Care Service for Armidale.