New After Hours Telehealth Services For Aged Care Facilities

Western Victoria Primary Health Network (WVPHN) is allocating funding of more than $227,000* for the delivery of a new program offering greater access to telehealth services at 12 residential aged care facilities (RACFs) in western Victoria.

The program will be delivered by My Emergency Dr an Australian-owned and operated 24/7 tele-emergency service that connects patients, carers and clinicians with a specialist emergency physician for direct consultations.

As part of the WVPHN After Hours Primary Health Care Program, the project will provide RACFs across western Victoria with telehealth access with the aim of increasing access to timely medical advice, reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 and minimising unnecessary transfers to regional Urgent Care Centres (UCCs) or Emergency Departments (EDs) for those living in residential aged care. Access to the telehealth service is available until 31 May 2021.

WVPHN Chief Executive Officer Rowena Clift said: “With the significant uptake in telehealth services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw an opportunity to respond to the primary health care needs of our high-risk populations, including those living in aged care. The After Hours Telehealth for Residential Aged Care Facilities project allows us to not only offer greater opportunities to limit exposure to COVID-19 for aged care residents in Great South Coast and their GPs, but to also alleviate some of the pressure on emergency departments in this very demanding time.”

The ‘after hours’ period is defined as:

  • Outside 8am to 6pm weekdays
  • Outside 8am to 12pm on Saturdays, and
  • All day on Sundays and public holidays.

The service will also provide some relief for health professionals at these facilities by covering periods of GP or other medical support leave, as an alternative to engaging GPs or other medical support, relieving the on-call demand for GPs for the after hours period, and by providing specialist support to nurses working in the after hours period.

Beyond the project end date of 31 May 2021, Deakin University will undertake an evaluation of the project to determine if telehealth is a viable business model to support after hours primary health care service within RACFs, which will inform future works in this area.

Western Victoria residential aged care facilities involved with the program

  • Elstoft House – Hamlyn Heights
  • Lorne Nursing Home
  • Otway Health Residential Care – Apollo Bay
  • Cobden Health Residential Care
  • Heywood Rural Health
  • Eventide Homes in Stawell
  • Edenhope and District Memorial Hospital
  • West Wimmera Health Service – Natimuk
  • Daylesford Aged Care Facility
  • Beaufort Nursing Home
  • Beaufort Hostel
  • Skipton Nursing Home

*Please note, the original figure of $600,000 included in the 23 September edition of Westvic News was incorrect.