Bringing regional communities closer to specialist care

NSW Nationals

Regional patients will be able to access specialist follow-up care closer to home with a re-elected Nationals’ Government announcing more than $7 million to establish virtual consultation spaces in every Multipurpose Service (MPS) across the state.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole said it would allow patients to connect with specialists in major regional or metropolitan centres from their local health hub and with the necessary local support.

“You shouldn’t have to drive hundreds of kilometres for a follow-up specialist appointment if you can have it face-to-face but via video in your local community,” Mr Toole said.

“That’s why we’ll create a devoted space in every one of our 63 MPSs in regional communities across the State with the technology for outpatients to connect with specialists anywhere in the country.”

Nationals Minister for Regional Health Bronnie Taylor said setting up virtual consultation spaces in the MPS meant support was available for patients, both to assist with navigating the technology and to help them plan for further treatments.

“This is about providing choice to our rural and regional patients who may not want to travel outside their community and don’t have access to the necessary technology at home or feel at ease using Telehealth on their own,” Mrs Taylor said.

A re-elected NSW Nationals Government will also commence a trial of networked, rural virtual hubs, building on the government’s commitment to better connect care across the bush.

Mrs Taylor said the hubs will help our smaller health facilities access enhanced medical coverage and support staff through remote monitoring, specialist advice where needed, 24/7 General Practitioner care, and better access to patient records.

“Our rural virtual hubs will be based in regional locations and staffed with regionally-based clinicians who will bring with them a wealth of knowledge,” Mrs Taylor said.

“From our lifesaving Telestroke Service, the Virtual Intensive Care Service in Broken Hill and our Virtual Chemotherapy Service run out of Coonabarabran and Cobar, virtual care has been a game-changer in the regional health space.

“There is no one quick fix solution to Australia’s medical workforce shortage, but by building rural hubs with clinicians who live and breathe regional health care, we are adding another layer of support in our rural and regional communities.

“This is not about removing face-to-face care, rather about making sure that no matter where you live you will receive the best care in a timely manner.”

The Bureau of Health Information’s 2021 report into Virtual Care surveyed over 20,363 people. Around nine in 10 (91%) rated their virtual care as ‘good’ or ‘very good’. Patients living in rural areas also tended to be more positive about their experiences of virtual care than urban patients.

The Regional Health Inquiry also recommended virtual care technology be used to supplement face-to-face services and assist patients effectively engage in virtual care.

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