Flu patients will join hundreds of people receiving virtual care as part of [email protected] in Tasmania

For Devonport resident Tammy Milne, getting COVID was a scary prospect.

Ms Milne suffers from musculoskeletal disorders and paralyzed vocal cords.

“It makes every breath quite difficult and takes a lot of energy, so getting COVID with those conditions really scared me,” she said.

When the disability advocate caught COVID-19 while on holiday in Hobart, a hospital stay seemed likely.

She was relieved when she found she could be cared for at home by Tasmania’s [email protected] virtual care programme.

Nurses assessed his condition over the phone and remotely monitored his temperature, heart rate and oxygen saturation levels.

[email protected] nurses help monitor patients over the phone.(ABC News: Maren Preuss)

Medicines and provisions were delivered to him.

“I’m so thrilled…I mean, the fear of getting COVID and then the reality of how I was cared for, it was just unbelievable,” Ms Milne said.

She was happy that she didn’t have to go to the hospital.

“Really, home is the best place to be, I think in my own environment with the supports I needed.”

[email protected] frees up hospital beds

More than 10,000 people have used the [email protected] program since Tasmania opened its borders to hotspots on December 15 last year.

It was offered to people who tested positive for COVID-19 via a PCR test or who reported a positive RAT.

Jane Palfreyman, nurse in charge of [email protected], oversees a team of more than 20 nurses who call and remotely monitor patients’ medical readings around the clock.

She said many patients said they benefited from being able to speak to nurses and a social worker over the phone.

“Especially for people who live alone and don’t have support around them, being able to talk to someone and feeling like you have someone there is really reassuring,” he said. she stated.

A young woman in a blue shirt stands in front of counter stalls
Jane Palfreyman, lead nurse at [email protected], says the virtual care program is more cost-effective than a hospital stay.(ABC News: Maren Preuss)

Ms. Palfreyman is happy that the program has avoided unnecessary hospital stays.

“The cost of a hospital bed is huge, so absolutely I think this program has been incredibly helpful and cost effective.”

Influenza patients will be eligible for virtual care

Tasmania Department of Health Secretary Kathrine Morgan-Wicks believes [email protected] has kept hundreds of COVID patients out of hospital.

“So in March and April when we see these [COVID-19] with the number of hospitalizations moving into the 50s, we also have some 700 to 1,000 patients cared for virtually here at [email protected],” she said.

Tasmania’s public hospitals regularly struggle with bed blocks, when acute full hospital beds mean emergency department patients cannot be admitted.

The latest figures from the department’s dashboard show that, on average, just over half of people who go to public hospital emergency rooms were seen within four hours.

As Tasmania approaches winter flu season, the department hopes the expanded [email protected] program will help prevent flu patients from overwhelming hospitals, while also coping with COVID patients.

A woman wears a helmet behind a sign that reads COVID@home
The [email protected] program will be extended this winter to influenza patients and other people with respiratory illnesses.(ABC News: Maren Preuss)

The [email protected] Plus program will be available to people who test positive for influenza and other common winter respiratory illnesses.

“If we know you’ve tested positive for the flu for example, we can get you into [email protected] and provide the same monitoring and reassurance that you can safely recover at home, or you can get the treatment you need,” Ms Morgan-Wicks said.

“[We’re] trying to make sure we save those acute hospital beds for those who really need them, whether it’s from severe COVID, pneumonia, or the impacts of flu season.

A blonde-haired woman wearing a black jacket speaks to the media.
Tasmanian Health Secretary Kathrine Morgan-Wicks estimates the scheme has saved hundreds of people from hospitalization.(ABC News: Maren Preuss)

Calls to further expand access

Health Consumers Tasmania chief executive Bruce Levett is on the [email protected] steering committee.

He said when the program started, some patients found it difficult to get to the health department to enroll.

A silver-haired middle-aged man sits at a table
Bruce Levett says the COVID program has been a welcome move for those who don’t want to be treated in hospital.(ABC News: Laura Beavis)

“But then the feedback was that once people got through they were really happy with the service they got and they felt comfortable and safe getting that treatment,” he said. declared.

He believed the program had addressed access to health care and people’s desire to be treated at home rather than in hospital.

He welcomed the expansion of the program to treat flu and other winter respiratory conditions, but wants the virtual care model to be expanded to help Tasmanians with other health conditions.

“We would like to sit down with the department to look at other areas where the community could benefit from a [email protected] type program in other situations,” Mr. Levett said.

“We really encourage the government to expand this because access to health care is really, it’s really biting, and all levels of government need to do more around access to health care.”

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