New clinic delivering better outcomes for older patients

A man is seated on a hospital bed and three woman stand beside him. Two of the women wear Rockingham General hospital uniforms
Patient George Colman in the Rockingham General Hospital Urgent Access Clinic with team members, Physiotherapist Sam Aspee, Clinical Nurse Nicole Saunders and Head of Department Aged Care, Rehabilitation and Neurology Dr Helen Thomas.
November 9, 2018

Rockingham General Hospital’s (RGH) new Urgent Care Clinic (UCC) is providing access to more personalised care and services for older people living in the local area.

The clinic sees elderly patients who present to the hospital’s emergency department, or are considered to be at risk of significant deterioration and are referred from community practitioners.

RGH Head of Department Aged Care, Rehabilitation and Neurology, Dr Helen Thomas, said the population in Rockingham is ageing and statistics show more than 22 per cent of people in the area are over 65 years of age.

“Last year 18 per cent of our Emergency Department presentations were by people over 65 years of age. A significant proportion of these patients did not require admission to the hospital, but did require a comprehensive health and social care assessment,” Dr Thomas said.

“Often older people have difficulty navigating our health and social care systems.  

“The clinic is designed to provide a responsive, same day, interdisciplinary service and is staffed by a consultant geriatrician, clinical nurse, physiotherapist and occupational therapist, with access to the social work, dietetics and speech pathology teams.

“This innovation is one step towards improving the connection between hospital and primary health care and ensuring timely access to appropriate care for older people.”

Since it opened at the start of October, more than 100 patients have been through the clinic, 80 per cent of these patients were referred from the emergency department and managed within four hours of arriving.

Dr Thomas said the clinic was having a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of elderly patients.

“As an example, a gentleman presented at the hospital requesting assistance for his 90 year old wife who had cognitive impairment, was not showering or eating and had developed a skin rash,” Dr Thomas said.

“She was reviewed in the clinic by the team, including an assessment by social work and dietetics.  A care plan was developed which included modifications to her medications, personal support for showering assistance and dietary supplementation.

“Arrangements were made for her to be followed up at home by the hospital’s Aged Care Transition and Liaison Nurse. Her condition has improved and she will be followed up in the community rehabilitation service clinics.

“This timely response and intervention to a crisis situation meant the patient didn’t need to be admitted and wasn’t waiting in the emergency department for long periods of time; it really shows the need for such a dynamic service.”

The UCC is open Monday to Friday from 10.00am to 6.00pm.

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