WIMMERA residents will now have access to specialist emergency doctors at all times, after a roll-out of a new telehealth program.
Western Victoria Primary Health Network and My Emergency Dr are piloting a new after hours telehealth project at Rural Northwest Health and Stawell Regional Hospital from this week.
The pilot will be rolled out to East Grampians Health Services in September.
Rural Northwest Health clinical services executive director Wendy James said the program would help ease the burden on staff and help avoid unnecessary patient transfers.
"It's going to provide access to specialist emergency physicians after hours," she said.
"For us at Rural Northwest Health, he have GPs and nurse practitioners on-call, so we are going to use this program during the nurse's on-call period.
"This will reduce the amount of times they get called in after hours and provide greater access for our consumers.
"It will also help in times when nurses or doctors might be sick and no one is available.
"Our staff can call a number and have an expert available immediately."
Ms James said the telehealth program was a video-call on a mobile device.
"The specialist will be able to see the patient in bed, talk to them and make an assessment," she said.
After hours is defined as Sundays, public holidays and anytime outside 8am to 6pm on weekdays and 8am to noon on Saturdays.
Ms James said the program would greatly benefit small communities in the region.
"We are lucky at Warracknabeal because we do essentially provide a service 24/7, but lots of smaller health services in the region don't have that luxury," she said.
"It will also save unnecessary transfers to Wimmera Health Care Group - it's about being able to treat someone in the right place at the right time."
Western Victoria Primary Health Network chief executive Leanne Beagley said the use of telehealth had been identified as a potential alternative to addressing some of the workforce challenges.
"The pilot aims to complement the important role that GPs play in the provision of after hours care in the community and responds to some of the significant workforce demands and challenges in rural areas," she said.
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