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Dial a doctor
Patients to receive treatment via video-conferencing
By Brad Lester
SOUTH Gippsland’s health services are
turning to technology in a bid to over-
come a dearth of doctors in the region.
Patients attending urgent care services late at
night will soon be consulting doctors in Traralgon
via video-conferencing technology.
Urgent care centres at Leongatha, Korumburra,
Foster and Yarram hospitals will receive mobile
video-conferencing equipment that nurses will use
to communicate with a doctor at Latrobe Regional
Hospital, Traralgon between 9pm and 7am.
A camera will be used to show a doctor at
Traralgon the patient’s ailment and the doctor will
Modern medicine: from left, looking forward to the introduction of tele-health technology
in the urgent care centre at Leongatha Hospital are Gippsland Southern Health Service
executive director of nursing Vicki Farthing, nursing unit manager Chris Busuttil and Dr
The move, funded by a grant of more than
$350,000, seeks to fill a void in after hours urgent
care in South Gippsland.
Doctors typically work all day and are then
on-call to attend to urgent care callouts in the
evening and throughout the night, and then return
to clinical appointments the next day.
This not only exhausts existing doctors but
also hinders medical centres’ ability to recruit new
doctors, as potential applicants are often deterred
by the requirement to be on-call after hours.
executive director of nursing Vicki Farthing said
South Gippsland medical staff could also use the
technology to connect with other larger health
services in Melbourne.
“Junior GPs here will also be able to use the
technology to get a second opinion from a senior
GP without having to transfer the patient,” she
Similar systems have been used with success
in north-east Victoria and Geelong and Colac.
Ms Farthing said the video-conferencing
service would soon be complemented by nurses
with higher levels of training – endorsed as rural
and isolated practice nurses – who are able to treat
patients with lower level conditions rather than
calling in a doctor.
“We have three staff who have completed the
course and they will predominantly work after
hours,” she said.
“The other part of the tele-health program is
that we will be upskilling our nurses and they
will be able to do more suturing and plastering,
and that will help relieve the pressure on the GPs,
particularly after hours.”
Ms Farthing said the video-conferencing
service would be an alternative to face to face
consultations for patients with non-life threatening
Asked if governments at state and federal level
could fill the shortage of doctors by requiring
international doctors to work in rural areas and be
on-call, Ms Farthing said smaller health services
such as Gippsland Southern were not in a position
to support overseas doctors.
She said such doctors would require
supervision and could only work in fully funded
Funding for the tele-health program was
provided by Better Care Victoria, part of the State
DURING the Christmas and New
Year period, urgent care centres at Le-
ongatha and Korumburra were well
staffed, with the Korumburra centre
only on bypass on December 23 due
to a shortage of doctors available.
The centres treated cases of chest pain, a
motorbike accident victim, rashes, tonsillitis
and other minor conditions.
Leongatha also picked up extra demand
from the Corner Inlet and Wilsons Promontory
areas, given South Gippsland Hospital’s urgent
care centre only received patients with serious
or life threatening conditions after hours due
to inadequate availability of doctors.
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