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10 December 2013

Virtual ED expands in regional WA

  • Small country hospitals linked via Telehealth to emergency doctors in Perth
  • More than 4,500 emergency patients examined and treated since August 2012
  • Expanded from eight hospitals to 28 sites with plans for further expansion

An innovative service linking seriously ill and injured patients in the Wheatbelt to the State's best emergency specialists has assisted in the treatment of more than 4,500 regional patients and has been expanded from eight to 28 sites, with further expansion under way.

The Emergency Telehealth Service (ETS) links emergency specialists in Perth to small hospital emergency departments throughout the Wheatbelt via high-definition video conferencing equipment, enabling the early involvement of the specialists in the treatment of acutely unwell and critically injured patients.

Health Minister Kim Hames said more than 4,500 patients had been examined and treated via the ETS since it started in August 2012 as a pilot program in eight Wheatbelt hospitals.

"The success of the ETS has seen it extended from eight to 28 Wheatbelt sites in the past 16 months and plans are under way for most WA Country Health Service hospitals to have Emergency Telehealth capacity in 2015," Dr Hames said.

"The early involvement of emergency specialists in the care of very unwell patients has proven invaluable in terms of early treatment, better patient outcomes and critical support for front-line clinicians, such as nursing staff in remote hospitals.

"Of the 4,500 patients who have used the ETS since its inception, 71 per cent of patients have been successfully diagnosed and treated at the presenting hospital, reducing the need for them be transferred to another hospital.

"Earlier treatment and intervention means a quicker recovery and less time spent in hospitals for patients."

The Minister said Telehealth was a key part of the State Government's $565million Southern Inland Health Initiative, funded through Royalties for Regions.

"In many cases, improved access to specialists within their own communities reduces the need for patients to travel to the metropolitan area or other major regions, which also lessens the burden placed on these patients when they are away from their home towns," he said.

"The ETS is having a positive impact on front-line clinicians in remote locations, who are often working in isolation, managing complex emergency presentations. It enables the specialist and clinicians to work together on cases which provides support and also real-time training."

The Goldfields region will be the next region to receive ETS, with staff orientation sessions currently under way.

         Fact File

  • The original eight sites which were part of the ETS pilot program are Beverley, Cunderdin, Goomalling, Northam, Southern Cross, Wongan Hills, Wyalkatchem, York
  • The program is now expanded to also include Boddington, Bruce Rock, Corrigin, Dalwallinu, Dumbleyung, Fitzroy Crossing, Geraldton, Halls Creek, Jurien Bay, Kellerberrin, Kondinin, Kunnunoppin, Lake Grace, Merredin, Moora, Narambeen, Narrogin, Pingelly, Quairading, Wagin
  • The State Government, under the Royalties for Regions program, is investing $565million over five years to reform and improve health care access in the Southern Inland area of Western Australia. For more information visit: http://www.health.wa.gov.au/southerninland/home/

Minister's office - 6552 5300

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