Sign In
HomeNewsVirtual Hospital Shows the Way of the Future

Virtual Hospital Shows the Way of the Future

COVID-19 was a step into the unknown for everyone involved in healthcare, but Northern Sydney Local Health District’s Virtual Hospital is a shining example of how the challenges have been met. 

Established just after the pandemic arrived in Australia and comprising a multi-disciplinary team of clinical and administrative staff, the service has provided at-home care to thousands of patients across the district. 

It has been crucial in ensuring the district’s hospitals were not overrun and patients with COVID-19 could recover at home, while also offering an early glimpse towards future models of ‘remote’ care for patients. 

For Renal Physician Dr Paul Collett, who was appointed Clinical Medical Director of the hospital, leading the service has been a challenging but rewarding experience. 

“I think the medical profession overall wanted to contribute whatever we could to get us through COVID, even though it was an unknown situation,” Dr Collett, a former Head of the Department of General Medicine at Royal North Shore Hospital who was given the role in early 2020, said. 

“I had been a department head and had clinical and management experience.  I felt I had the necessary skill set for the position.  I think we all felt COVID would place a huge strain on healthcare, but for me, this role was a challenge that had to be met.”

Located on the St Leonards campus, the team of doctors, nurses and administrative staff triaged and treated all patients in the NSLHD with COVID-19 who were referred by all pathology services and the Public Health Unit.

In some ways COVID has given us the skills and the drive to accelerate such changes to the way we worked.
Clinical Medical Director Paul Collett

During the pandemic’s busiest times, the team made about 350 calls a day to patients of all ages and ethnic background across the district, managing their treatment virtually and discussing their symptoms and welfare needs. 

Daily meetings to discuss and assess management plans were needed, as well as appropriate responses to changed pandemic guidelines. 

Dr Collett’s duties also included working with other NSW local health districts and other State and Federal stakeholders to ensure the service worked most effectively.

“Trying to switch off (from the pandemic) could be tough,” Dr Collett said.  “It was about compartmentalising, even though COVID-19 was everywhere. I think that having a multi-disciplinary effort from all involved and good communication across all teams was key to its efficiency.

“Yes, there were some frustrations at times but that is always to be expected, especially during such an unusual situation.”

Beyond COVID-19, the Virtual Hospital is playing an increasingly prominent role the district’s health service, treating a range of patients who don’t require hospital admission, but need care in their homes.

“Keeping more patients out of hospital treated at home – when and where appropriate - is very much the way of the future,” Dr Collett, who expects to remain in his position with the Virtual Hospital until the end of 2022, said.  

“In some ways COVID has given us the skills and the drive to accelerate such changes to the way we worked.

“It’s been challenging at times but I’m happy I’ve been part of a team that’s made a difference.” 

What others found interesting…