Now showing 1 - 9 of 9
  • Publication
    Journal Article
    Remote health workforce turnover and retention: what are the policy and practice priorities?
    (2019-12-16)
    Wakerman, John
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    Humphreys, John
    ;
    Russell, Deborah
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    Guthridge, Steven
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    Bourke, Lisa
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    Dunbar, Terry
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    ; ;
    Murakami-Gold, Lorna
    ;
    Jones, Michael P
    Residents of remote communities in Australia and other geographically large countries have comparatively poorer access to high-quality primary health care. To inform ongoing policy development and practice in relation to remote area health service delivery, particularly in remote Indigenous communities, this review synthesizes the key findings of (1) a comprehensive study of workforce turnover and retention in remote Northern Territory (NT) of Australia and (2) a narrative review of relevant international literature on remote and rural health workforce retention strategies. This synthesis provides a valuable summary of the current state of international knowledge about improving remote health workforce retention.Annual turnover rates of NT remote area nurses (148%) and Aboriginal health practitioners (80%) are very high and 12-month stability rates low (48% and 76%, respectively). In remote NT, use of agency nurses has increased substantially. Primary care costs are high and proportional to staff turnover and remoteness. Effectiveness of care decreases with higher turnover and use of short-term staff, such that higher staff turnover is always less cost-effective. If staff turnover in remote clinics were halved, the potential savings would be approximately A$32 million per annum. Staff turnover and retention were affected by management style and effectiveness, and employment of Indigenous staff. Review of the international literature reveals three broad themes: Targeted enrolment into training and appropriate education designed to produce a competent, accessible, acceptable and 'fit-for-purpose' workforce; addressing broader health system issues that ensure a safe and supportive work environment; and providing ongoing individual and family support. Key educational initiatives include prioritising remote origin and Indigenous students for university entry; maximising training in remote areas; contextualising curricula; providing financial, pedagogical and pastoral support; and ensuring clear, supported career pathways and continuing professional development. Health system initiatives include ensuring adequate funding; providing adequate infrastructure including fit-for-purpose clinics, housing, transport and information technology; offering flexible employment arrangements whilst ensuring a good 'fit' between individual staff and the community (especially with regard to cultural skills); optimising co-ordination and management of services that empower staff and create positive practice environments; and prioritising community participation and employment of locals. Individual and family supports include offering tailored financial incentives, psychological support and 'time out'.Optimal remote health workforce stability and preventing excessive 'avoidable' turnover mandates alignment of government and health authority policies with both health service requirements and individual health professional and community needs. Supportive underpinning policies include: Strong intersectoral collaboration between the health and education sectors to ensure a fit-for-purpose workforce;A funding policy which mandates the development and implementation of an equitable, needs-based formula for funding remote health services;Policies that facilitate transition to community control, prioritise Indigenous training and employment, and mandate a culturally safe work context; andAn employment policy which provides flexibility of employment conditions in order to be able to offer individually customised retention packages There is considerable extant evidence from around the world about effective retention strategies that contribute to slowing excessive remote health workforce turnover, resulting in significant cost savings and improved continuity of care. The immediate problem comprises an 'implementation gap' in translating empirical research evidence into actions designed to resolve existing problems. If we wish to ameliorate the very high turnover of staff in remote areas, in order to provide an equitable service to populations with arguably the highest health needs, we need political and executive commitment to get the policy settings right and ensure the coordinated implementation of multiple strategies, including better linking existing strategies and 'filling the gaps' where necessary.
  • Publication
    Journal Article
    Attitudes to Short-Term Staffing and Workforce Priorities of Community Users of Remote Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Services: A Qualitative Study.
    (2024-04-14)
    Liddle, Zania
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    Fitts, Michelle S
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    Bourke, Lisa
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    Murakami-Gold, Lorna
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    Campbell, Narelle
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    Russell, Deborah J
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    Mathew, Supriya
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    Bonson, Jason
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    Mulholland, Edward
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    Humphreys, John S
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    Boffa, John
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    Tangey, Annie
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    Schultz, Rosalie
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    Wakerman, John
    In recent years, there has been an increasing trend of short-term staffing in remote health services, including Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs). This paper explores the perceptions of clinic users' experiences at their local clinic and how short-term staffing impacts the quality of service, acceptability, cultural safety, and continuity of care in ACCHSs in remote communities. Using purposeful and convenience sampling, community users (aged 18+) of the eleven partnering ACCHSs were invited to provide feedback about their experiences through an interview or focus group. Between February 2020 and October 2021, 331 participants from the Northern Territory and Western Australia were recruited to participate in the study. Audio recordings were transcribed verbatim, and written notes and transcriptions were analysed deductively. Overall, community users felt that their ACCHS provided comprehensive healthcare that was responsive to their health needs and was delivered by well-trained staff. In general, community users expressed concern over the high turnover of staff. Recognising the challenges of attracting and retaining staff in remote Australia, community users were accepting of rotation and job-sharing arrangements, whereby staff return periodically to the same community, as this facilitated trusting relationships. Increased support for local employment pathways, the use of interpreters to enhance communication with healthcare services, and services for men delivered by men were priorities for clinic users.
  • Publication
    Journal Article
    Strengthening cardiovascular disease prevention in remote indigenous communities in Australia's Northern Territory.
    (2015-05-01) ;
    Sinclair G
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    ;
    Coffey PJ
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    ;
    Katekar LV
    In 2012 the Northern Territory Department of Health commenced the Chronic Conditions Management Model - strengthening cardiovascular disease prevention in remote Indigenous communities. Interventions included providing regular functional reporting and decision support to frontline primary health care teams. Longitudinal (three monthly) clinical audits of cardiac prevention services were undertaken between 2012 and 2014. Our primary outcome was population coverage of cardiovascular risk assessment for Indigenous clients aged 20 years and older. Secondary outcomes for those identified at high risk were (i) assessment of modifiable cardiac risk factors, (ii) prescription of risk lowering medications, and (iii) the proportion of high risk clients achieving clinical targets for risk reduction. As of August 2014, 7266 clients have had their cardiovascular risk assessed, improving population coverage from 23% in mid June 2012 to 58.5%. For 2586 high risk clients, 1728 (67%) and 1416 (55%) were prescribed blood pressure and lipid lowering therapy and for those clinically re-assessed, 1366 (57%) and 989 (40%) were achieving clinical targets for risk reduction for blood pressure and lipids respectively. Functional reporting and decision support was associated with improvement in cardiovascular risk assessment coverage and a sustained proportion of high risk clients achieving clinical targets for cardiovascular risk reduction. Further intervention-based research is required to close the gap between identification of risk and risk reduction.
      1235
  • Publication
    Journal Article
    Telehealth in remote Australia: a supplementary tool or an alternative model of care replacing face-to-face consultations?
    (2023-04-05)
    Mathew S
    ;
    Fitts MS
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    Liddle Z
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    Bourke L
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    Campbell N
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    Murakami-Gold L
    ;
    Russell DJ
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    Humphreys JS
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    Mullholand E
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    ;
    Jones MP
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    Boffa J
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    Tangey A
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    Schultz, R
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    Wakerman J
    BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic increased the use of telehealth consultations by telephone and video around the world. While telehealth can improve access to primary health care, there are significant gaps in our understanding about how, when and to what extent telehealth should be used. This paper explores the perspectives of health care staff on the key elements relating to the effective use of telehealth for patients living in remote Australia. METHODS: Between February 2020 and October 2021, interviews and discussion groups were conducted with 248 clinic staff from 20 different remote communities across northern Australia. Interview coding followed an inductive approach. Thematic analysis was used to group codes into common themes. RESULTS: Reduced need to travel for telehealth consultations was perceived to benefit both health providers and patients. Telehealth functioned best when there was a pre-established relationship between the patient and the health care provider and with patients who had good knowledge of their personal health, spoke English and had access to and familiarity with digital technology. On the other hand, telehealth was thought to be resource intensive, increasing remote clinic staff workload as most patients needed clinic staff to facilitate the telehealth session and complete background administrative work to support the consultation and an interpreter for translation services. Clinic staff universally emphasised that telehealth is a useful supplementary tool, and not a stand-alone service model replacing face-to-face interactions. CONCLUSION: Telehealth has the potential to improve access to healthcare in remote areas if complemented with adequate face-to-face services. Careful workforce planning is required while introducing telehealth into clinics that already face high staff shortages. Digital infrastructure with reliable internet connections with sufficient speed and latency need to be available at affordable prices in remote communities to make full use of telehealth consultations. Training and employment of local Aboriginal staff as digital navigators could ensure a culturally safe clinical environment for telehealth consultations and promote the effective use of telehealth services among community members.
      3408
  • Publication
    Journal Article
    Effects of turnover and stability of health staff on quality of care in remote communities of the Northern Territory, Australia: a retrospective cohort study.
    (2021-10-19)
    Jones MP
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    ;
    Guthridge S
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    Russell DJ
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    Humphreys JS
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    Wakerman J
    OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the relationship between markers of staff employment stability and use of short-term healthcare workers with markers of quality of care. A secondary objective was to identify clinic-specific factors which may counter hypothesised reduced quality of care associated with lower stability, higher turnover or higher use of short-term staff. DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study (Northern Territory (NT) Department of Health Primary Care Information Systems). SETTING: All 48 government primary healthcare clinics in remote communities in NT, Australia (2011-2015). PARTICIPANTS: 25 413 patients drawn from participating clinics during the study period. OUTCOME MEASURES: Associations between independent variables (resident remote area nurse and Aboriginal Health Practitioner turnover rates, stability rates and the proportional use of agency nurses) and indicators of health service quality in child and maternal health, chronic disease management and preventive health activity were tested using linear regression, adjusting for community and clinic size. Latent class modelling was used to investigate between-clinic heterogeneity. RESULTS: The proportion of resident Aboriginal clients receiving high-quality care as measured by various quality indicators varied considerably across indicators and clinics. Higher quality care was more likely to be received for management of chronic diseases such as diabetes and least likely to be received for general/preventive adult health checks. Many indicators had target goals of 0.80 which were mostly not achieved. The evidence for associations between decreased stability measures or increased use of agency nurses and reduced achievement of quality indicators was not supported as hypothesised. For the majority of associations, the overall effect sizes were small (close to zero) and failed to reach statistical significance. Where statistically significant associations were found, they were generally in the hypothesised direction. CONCLUSIONS: Overall, minimal evidence of the hypothesised negative effects of increased turnover, decreased stability and increased reliance on temporary staff on quality of care was found. Substantial variations in clinic-specific estimates of association were evident, suggesting that clinic-specific factors may counter any potential negative effects of decreased staff employment stability. Investigation of clinic-specific factors using latent class analysis failed to yield clinic characteristics that adequately explain between-clinic variation in associations. Understanding the reasons for this variation would significantly aid the provision of clinical care in remote Australia.
      3564
  • Publication
    Journal Article
    Interventions for health workforce retention in rural and remote areas: a systematic review.
    (2021-08-26)
    Russell D
    ;
    Mathew S
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    Fitts M
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    Liddle Z
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    Murakami-Gold L
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    Campbell N
    ;
    ; ;
    Hines S
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    Humphreys JS
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    Wakerman J
    BACKGROUND: Attracting and retaining sufficient health workers to provide adequate services for residents of rural and remote areas has global significance. High income countries (HICs) face challenges in staffing rural areas, which are often perceived by health workers as less attractive workplaces. The objective of this review was to examine the quantifiable associations between interventions to retain health workers in rural and remote areas of HICs, and workforce retention. METHODS: The review considers studies of rural or remote health workers in HICs where participants have experienced interventions, support measures or incentive programs intended to increase retention. Experimental, quasi-experimental and observational study designs including cohort, case-control, cross-sectional and case series studies published since 2010 were eligible for inclusion. The Joanna Briggs Institute methodology for reviews of risk and aetiology was used. Databases searched included MEDLINE (OVID), CINAHL (EBSCO), Embase, Web of Science and Informit. RESULTS: Of 2649 identified articles, 34 were included, with a total of 58,188 participants. All study designs were observational, limiting certainty of findings. Evidence relating to the retention of non-medical health professionals was scant. There is growing evidence that preferential selection of students who grew up in a rural area is associated with increased rural retention. Undertaking substantial lengths of rural training during basic university training or during post-graduate training were each associated with higher rural retention, as was supporting existing rural health professionals to extend their skills or upgrade their qualifications. Regulatory interventions requiring return-of-service (ROS) in a rural area in exchange for visa waivers, access to professional licenses or provider numbers were associated with comparatively low rural retention, especially once the ROS period was complete. Rural retention was higher if ROS was in exchange for loan repayments. CONCLUSION: Educational interventions such as preferential selection of rural students and distributed training in rural areas are associated with increased rural retention of health professionals. Strongly coercive interventions are associated with comparatively lower rural retention than interventions that involve less coercion. Policy makers seeking rural retention in the medium and longer term would be prudent to strengthen rural training pathways and limit the use of strongly coercive interventions.
      1642
  • Publication
    Journal Article
    Patterns of resident health workforce turnover and retention in remote communities of the Northern Territory of Australia, 2013-2015.
    (2017-08-15)
    Russell DJ
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    Guthridge S
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    Jones MP
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    Humphreys JS
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    Wakerman J
    The geographical maldistribution of the health workforce is a persisting global issue linked to inequitable access to health services and poorer health outcomes for rural and remote populations. In the Northern Territory (NT), anecdotal reports suggest that the primary care workforce in remote Aboriginal communities is characterised by high turnover, low stability and high use of temporary staffing; however, there is a lack of reliable information to guide workforce policy improvements. This study quantifies current turnover and retention in remote NT communities and investigates correlations between turnover and retention metrics and health service/community characteristics. This study used the NT Department of Health 2013-2015 payroll and financial datasets for resident health workforce in 53 remote primary care clinics. Main outcome measures include annual turnover rates, annual stability rates, 12-month survival probabilities and median survival. At any time point, the clinics had a median of 2.0 nurses, 0.6 Aboriginal health practitioners (AHPs), 2.2 other employees and 0.4 additional agency-employed nurses. Mean annual turnover rates for nurses and AHPs combined were extremely high, irrespective of whether turnover was defined as no longer working in any remote clinic (66%) or no longer working at a specific remote clinic (128%). Stability rates were low, and only 20% of nurses and AHPs remain working at a specific remote clinic 12 months after commencing. Half left within 4 months. Nurse and AHP turnover correlated with other workforce measures. However, there was little correlation between most workforce metrics and health service characteristics. NT Government-funded remote clinics are small, experience very high staff turnover and make considerable use of agency nurses. These staffing patterns, also found in remote settings elsewhere in Australia and globally, not only incur higher direct costs for service provision-and therefore may compromise long-term sustainability-but also are almost certainly contributing to sub-optimal continuity of care, compromised health outcomes and poorer levels of staff safety. To address these deficiencies, it is imperative that investments in implementing, adequately resourcing and evaluating staffing models which stabilise the remote primary care workforce occur as a matter of priority.
      1382
  • Publication
    Journal Article
    Understanding and responding to the cost and health impact of short-term health staffing in remote and rural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled health services: a mixed methods study protocol.
    (2021-08-18)
    Fitts MS
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    Humphreys J
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    Dunbar T
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    Bourke L
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    Mulholland E
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    Guthridge S
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    Jones MP
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    Boffa J
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    Murakami-Gold L
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    Tangey A
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    Comerford C
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    Schultz R
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    Campbell N
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    Mathew S
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    Liddle Z
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    Russell D
    ;
    Wakerman J
    INTRODUCTION: Access to high-quality primary healthcare is limited for remote residents in Australia. Increasingly, remote health services are reliant on short-term or 'fly-in, fly-out/drive-in, drive-out' health workforce to deliver primary healthcare. A key strategy to achieving health service access equity, particularly evident in remote Australia, has been the development of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs). This study aims to generate new knowledge about (1) the impact of short-term staffing in remote and rural ACCHSs on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities; (2) the potential mitigating effect of community control; and (3) effective, context-specific evidence-based retention strategies. METHODS AND ANALYSIS: This paper describes a 3-year, mixed methods study involving 12 ACCHSs across three states. The methods are situated within an evidence-based programme logic framework for rural and remote primary healthcare services. Quantitative data will be used to describe staffing stability and turnover, with multiple regression analyses to determine associations between independent variables (population size, geographical remoteness, resident staff turnover and socioeconomic status) and dependent variables related to patient care, service cost, quality and effectiveness. Qualitative assessment will include interviews and focus groups with clinical staff, clinic users, regionally-based retrieval staff and representatives of jurisdictional peak bodies for the ACCHS sector, to understand the impact of short-term staff on quality and continuity of patient care, as well as satisfaction and acceptability of services. ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: The study has ethics approval from the Human Research Ethics Committee of the Northern Territory Department of Health and Menzies School of Health Research (project number DR03171), Central Australian Human Research Ethics Committee (CA-19-3493), Western Australian Aboriginal Health Ethics Committee (WAAHEC-938) and Far North Queensland Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC/2019/QCH/56393). Results will be disseminated through peer-reviewed journals, the project steering committee and community/stakeholder engagement activities to be determined by each ACCHS.
      1445
  • Publication
    Journal Article
    Primary health care utilisation and delivery in remote Australian clinics during the COVID-19 pandemic.
    (2024-07-05)
    Mathew, Supriya
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    Fitts, Michelle S
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    Liddle, Zania
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    Bourke, Lisa
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    Campbell, Narelle
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    Murakami-Gold, Lorna
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    Russell, Deborah J
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    Humphreys, John S
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    Rossingh, Bronwyn
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    Jones, Michael P
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    Boffa, John
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    Tangey, Annie
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    Schultz, Rosalie
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    Mulholland, Edward
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    Wakerman, John
    The COVID-19 pandemic period (2020 to 2022) challenged and overstretched the capacity of primary health care services to deliver health care globally. The sector faced a highly uncertain and dynamic period that encompassed anticipation of a new, unknown, lethal and highly transmissible infection, the introduction of various travel restrictions, health workforce shortages, new government funding announcements and various policies to restrict the spread of the COVID-19 virus, then vaccination and treatments. This qualitative study aims to document and explore how the pandemic affected primary health care utilisation and delivery in remote and regional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.Semi-structured interviews were conducted with staff working in 11 Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs) in outer regional, remote and very remote Australia. Interviews were transcribed, inductively coded and thematically analysed.248 staff working in outer regional, remote and very remote primary health care clinics were interviewed between February 2020 and June 2021. Participants reported a decline in numbers of primary health care presentations in most communities during the initial COVID-19 lock down period. The reasons for the decline were attributed to community members apprehension to go to the clinics, change in work priorities of primary health care staff (e.g. more emphasis on preventing the virus entering the communities and stopping the spread) and limited outreach programs. Staff forecasted a future spike in acute presentations of various chronic diseases leading to increased medical retrieval requirements from remote communities to hospital. Information dissemination during the pre-vaccine roll-out stage was perceived to be well received by community members, while vaccine roll-out stage information was challenged by misinformation circulated through social media.The ability of ACCHSs to be able to adapt service delivery in response to the changing COVID-19 strategies and policies are highlighted in this study. The study signifies the need to adequately fund ACCHSs with staff, resources, space and appropriate information to enable them to connect with their communities and continue their work especially in an era where the additional challenges created by pandemics are likely to become more frequent. While the PHC seeking behaviour of community members during the COVID-19 period were aligned to the trends observed across the world, some of the reasons underlying the trends were unique to outer regional, remote and very remote populations. Policy makers will need to give due consideration to the potential effects of newly developed policies on ACCHSs operating in remote and regional contexts that already battle under resourcing issues and high numbers of chronically ill populations.