Health care leaves hospital and goes home

HEALTH care is moving out of the hospital and into the home, says St John of God Healthcare Subiaco CEO Neale Fong.

“Over the past decade there has been a swing towards trying to reduce the length of stay in hospitals,” Dr Fong said.

Traditionally, invasive surgical methods meant people had to stay in hospital to recuperate.

“These days we try and reduce the length of a patient’s hospital stay.

“In hospitals there is an increased risk of infection despite the best efforts of infection control. Plus there is the cost of the stay.

“Improvements in medical technology and pharmaceuticals has made short stays possible.

“Less invasive surgery and improved anaesthetics has led to same day surgery.

“The patient usually stays for about four hours and then goes home.

“While it saves costs on hospital stays, it can be more expensive up front.”

In 1995-96, same day surgery counted for 42 per cent of surgery carried out in all hospitals Australia-wide.

This year that figure is expected to be 48 per cent.

Dr Fong said in private hospitals the figure was closer to 50 per cent.

“People recover better at home,” he said.

“But support programs need to be in place, such as hospital in the home where nurses and doctors visit patients in the home as part of their after care.

“St John’s is exploring that avenue at the amount.”

Dr Fong said one recent trend had been the establishment of many day care centres around Australia, particularly for eye surgery and minor surgery.

The trend towards home care was also recognised at last year’s WA Business Woman of the Year Awards.

Home medical care provider Carealot owner Barbara Mac-leod won the Business Owner Award in those awards.

Her business provides care to more than 600 families from Paraburdoo to Mandurah. It also has midwifery services and an Alzheimer care team.

“The bulk of our carers are not professional carers but are mostly women that have had to care for a dying spouse or child,” Ms Macleod said.

“We also have registered nurses on the payroll to administer injections and the like.”

“I think people should only be hospitalised for the acute phase of their illness,” she said. “Many studies show people recover quickest at home.”

Brightwater Care Group executive director and last year’s national Business Woman of the Year Award winner Penny Flett also believes home care is the way of the future.

Dr Flett was involved with a Federal Government pilot program to provide high-level care in people’s homes to see if people could be kept out of traditional aged care.

“The traditional way of aged care can’t continue,” Dr Flett said. “Bricks and mortar are too expensive.”

Dr Flett said Australia’s rapidly aging population and a fluctuating funding systems meant aged care organisations had to rethink their approach.

“I sincerely trust the situation will come about where aged people can get care in their own homes,” Dr Flett said.

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