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New partnership aims to ease ED pressure and help patients access care in Invercargill

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An innovative pilot programme led by WellSouth Primary Health Network, in partnership with Southern DHB’s Southland Hospital, will help patients get the urgent care they need while reducing pressure on the emergency department.

WellSouth and Southern DHB are trialling EmergencyQ, a software solution which connects Southland Hospital, He Puna Waiora Wellness Centre and Invercargill Medical Centre. EmergencyQ enables ED staff to offer alternative healthcare access for some people presenting at ED who could receive the care they need in a primary care setting.

Patients attending the ED are clinically triaged by a nurse, with some non-emergency patients being offered the option of treatment in general practice. Patients are issued a voucher and their information is digitally transferred to the general practice.

Sore throats, ear infections, rashes, and minor strains and sprains, are among the presentations which could be addressed or treated in general practice, rather than patients needing to wait to be seen by an emergency department clinician. Patients are not obliged to take the general practice option and can stay in the ED if they’d prefer.

The EmergencyQ trial starts this week with the two general practices providing limited acute (same day) slots available for ED referrals during usual opening hours  

Southland Hospital General Manager Simon Donlevy says ED staff are incredibly positive about the trial.

“We are excited to partner with our colleagues in primary care to trial the use of EmergencyQ in the Emergency Department in Southland Hospital. 

“EmergencyQ will work to assist in reducing pressure on the Emergency Department especially as we move into the winter months and provide an option for selected patients to receive their care in a primary care setting. 

“This initiative supports patients to get the care that they need in the most appropriate location and allows us to provide treatment to patients who need the Emergency Department in a more timely manner,” Mr Donlevy said.

Invercargill Medical Centre Practice Manger Tracey Smith says the trial of EmergencyQ within the practice has been successful so far: “We are happy to strengthen the relationship with Southland Hospital by working with the team in the Emergency Department.

“The main aim is to help patients in the community get the care they need where we can.  Those patients we have seen so far who have taken up the option to come to Invercargill Medical Centre,

have been so appreciative of the service we are able to provide to them.”

EmergencyQ is a software solution that enables non-emergency patients to be seen by a primary care service. Launched in 2017, it is in use at seven emergency departments and 16 primary care/urgent care providers across Aotearoa.  This is the first time the solution has been used in Te Waipounamu.

As part of the programme a dedicated screen in Southland Hospital ED displays real time reporting of wait times, ensuring patients are informed and reducing pressure on ED staff.

WellSouth CEO, Andrew Swanson-Dobbs says EmergencyQ is one part of broader efforts to help people get the health care they need, from the right health services.

“General practice teams are again reaching out further to support patients and do more in the health system and I am very grateful for all our general practice colleagues for all they are doing.

“Emergency Q and other initiatives are part of the solution as we work to support patients and whānau to access the care they need where it is best to receive that care, while also supporting the sustainability of health providers.

“There isn’t a silver bullet to solve the pressures that are being felt across the health sector, here and elsewhere in the motu. But initiatives like this one – where we have health providers working in partnership - this is the kind of locality approach to health services that there will be more of in the future.”

After an initial trial period, the aim is for other providers to participate in the EmergencyQ programme in Invercargill and potentially for the programme to be introduced at other emergency departments in Southern.

Anyone needing emergency services should continue to seek care at the emergency department. HealthLine 0800 611 116  is also available to provide advice, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.