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HomeNewsNSLHD’s Virtual Hospital caring for community

NSLHD’s Virtual Hospital caring for community

It runs just like a hospital and it cares for patients just like a hospital, but it won’t appear on any Google map searches.

That’s because Northern Sydney Local Health District’s Virtual Hospital isn’t caring for patients in a building, but treating around 350 patients in their homes.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, renal and general physician Dr Paul Collett has been overseeing the Virtual Hospital as clinical medical director, treating members of the community who are COVID-19 positive in their homes, unless they require a transfer to hospital.

Located in a building on the Royal North Shore Hospital campus, the team of doctors and nurses triage and treat the patients via telephone or videoconference. Patients can also phone into a call centre and speak to a registered nurse, if they have concerns about worsening symptoms or are anxious.

Each day, the team calls the patients, who are categorised into high, medium and low risk – and discuss their symptoms and welfare needs.

Paul said if a patient deteriorates, an ambulance is called and they are taken to hospital.

“We call each day; it is a medical check but it’s also a welfare check to see if they are managing at home, are they still able to isolate, do they have food, how are the others in their household,” he said.

It’s a hospital not in a hospital building. It has all the fundamentals. It is staffed like a hospital would be with doctors, nurses, allied health, administration support and it has a governance structure like a hospital with a general manager, medical directors and nurse unit managers.
General Physician Dr Paul Collett

Reassuringly, many of the patients who are under the Virtual Hospital care go on to recover and don’t need hospitalisation. 

Beyond COVID-19, the Virtual Hospital will continue to be part of the health service, looking to treat a range of patients who don’t require hospital admission, but need care and treatment in their homes.

“It definitely has a role to play in the future. We are looking carefully at how we can manage patients in the future in the community with the aim to care for people out of hospital or if they do require admission, preventing readmission,” Paul said.

“This (model) is well on the way.”

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