$130m to boost virtual health care and reduce ramping


Friday, 16 June, 2023

$130m to boost virtual health care and reduce ramping

Two virtual healthcare services — including one that helps keep children out of hospital — will receive a significant funding boost in the South Australian Budget as part of a $130.1 million injection into virtual health care.

The funding aims to address pressures within the health system by providing alternative ways people can access health care away from emergency departments, helping to improve patient flow through SA hospitals and free up beds.

The Child and Adolescent Virtual Urgent Care Service (CAVUCS) will receive $30.8 million over the next four years — a permanent extension of the popular service, which was funded temporarily during COVID. CAVUCS connects families remotely with a virtual team of highly skilled emergency doctors and nurses at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

In addition, the adult SA Virtual Care Service (SAVCS) will receive $67.8 million over five years geared at expanding the service and making it permanent — reducing emergency department presentations by providing virtual care by senior doctors, nurses and paramedics.

The children’s virtual care service has seen more than 24,320 patients since opening in August 2021, with 90% of them (21,862 families and young patients) avoiding an unnecessary trip to the ED. It also works closely with the SA Ambulance Service and has enabled 1020 ambulances to treat children at home instead of being taken to hospital. This also helps paramedics avoid a trip to the ED and get back on the road faster for people who need emergency care.

The service is available to families across South Australia, collectively saving families in regional areas more than a million kilometres and 19,100 hours in travel time to an ED.

“When you’ve got a sick child, you can’t get into a GP and you don’t need to go to an ED, our virtual care service can provide timely, safe health care in your own home,” said Minister for Health and Wellbeing Chris Picton.

“Our adult virtual care service offers the same convenience and care for older South Australians.

“These services not only provide convenient and practical health care for unwell South Australians and their families, but importantly, they also take pressure off our EDs and hospital system,” Picton said.

About 18,000 people have used the adult virtual care service since it was established in December 2021, with 80% of patients avoiding an unnecessary trip to the ED and receiving high-quality, safe, individualised care at home, or via more appropriate services in the community.

On top of the additional funding for the two virtual healthcare services, the new State Health Control Centre will receive $31.5 million over five years to upscale its operations to its full capability.

The initial phase of the centre launched last month out of Tonsley but will move to the new SA Ambulance Service Headquarters at Mile End when it opens in 2025. It will provide 24/7 support and oversight of SA’s health and hospital system, improving patient flow and reducing hospital overcrowding.

The upscaled centre will employ a multidisciplinary team of clinicians, including nursing staff, medical staff and paramedics, supported by expertise in predictive data and analytics, simulation, training and logistics.

The ongoing funding of the successful virtual healthcare services is part of an almost $200 million budget package to address the ramping crisis. (‘Ramping’ occurs when ambulances are delayed outside emergency departments — on or near the ramp.)

Image credit: iStock.com/ jacoblund

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