19/07/2021 - 13:58

St John WA's Urgent Care offers ED alternative for patients

19/07/2021 - 13:58

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St John WA is best known for delivering emergency ambulance care in Western Australia. This legacy has been forged over the past century.

The service has expanded its core business of caring for Western Australians during emergencies to develop an entire wrap-around system for urgent, unplanned care to help reduce pressure on both our ambulance service, and the State’s emergency departments.

This has included secondary triage which provides suitable patients with alternatives to ED, expanding our First Responder Network of trained first aid volunteers to respond to appropriate incidents when they arise, and developing a network of Urgent Care centres strategically located to offer an alternative care pathway to emergency departments.

Our five Urgent Care centres – set to expand to seven – deliver real care options for patients who are not facing an emergency, but do need urgent access to health care.

St John WA launched Urgent Care centres in 2016, with sites in Armadale, Cockburn and Joondalup. A subsequent five-year expansion trial – the first of its kind in Western Australia - was unveiled in April 2019, with the concept designed to play a key role in strengthening pre-hospital systems.

Two centres have opened during 2021, one in Midland, another in Cannington and two more are scheduled for 2022, delivering an alternative to ED departments for those in need of urgent care assessment.

The centres are supported by a $28 million Federal Government investment which will explore the impact they make on the health system.

Strategically located close to high-growth corridors in WA, the innovative move by St John WA to offer this new service was a natural evolution of its existing positioning.

The Urgent Care model has been designed to divert unnecessary visits to ED which account for more than half of all visits by WA would-be patients to hospital. Research shows about 16 out of the 20 most common emergency department presentations can safely be managed in a non-emergency department setting. These are often ‘walk ins’, separate from emergency ambulance presentations.

Although family GPs are highly skilled professionals, the challenge remains for the sector how to best address unplanned procedures such as plastering, stitches and other procedures.

That’s why Urgent Care centres do not replace the need for a traditional, fully-operational emergency department or family GP – the service is designed to work hand-in-glove with emergency and primary care.

Our centres deliver timely and equitable access into the health system for unscheduled care and while we do have GP practices incorporated into our centres, they have not been established to take away from the holistic support provided by a family GP. Our vision is to reduce pressure on emergency departments by ensuring patients receive the type of care they need in the most appropriate settings. This helps keep our ambulances on the road responding to emergencies.

The plan to extend the Urgent Care offering from north to south will bolster the ability of EDs to concentrate on the most urgent presenting patients, as awareness of St John WA’s alternative treatment centres grows.

No appointment is required, so for patients presenting with things like cuts that need stitches or glue, fevers, rashes, insect bites and possible broken bones or sprains, Urgent Care is the place to go.

For life-threatening symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, heavy bleeding, stroke or major accidents, patients should still head immediately to Emergency at a hospital.

St John Urgent Care centres are open from 8am to 10pm for injuries and illnesses which may need immediate treatment but aren’t life-threatening – and because it’s a walk-in service, with same-day appointments for its GP and dental practices, the aim is for patients to be seen in a timely manner.

Staffed by experienced GPs and nurses, St John’s Urgent Care centres facilitate x-rays or scans taken during a visit which can then be shared with the patient’s family GP, ensuring a continuity of care between the health care organisations.

We believe facilitating and investing in alternate care pathways for unscheduled care such as Urgent Care is the best way to deliver good outcomes for people in need.

Based on our nearly five years of evidence in running existing Urgent Care centres, we’re confident this will make a real difference where patients can receive high-quality care without the need to attend an emergency department.

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