New hospital plan -- Patients to be treated at home

By ALEX EASTON

THE North Coast Area Health Service has flagged a new project which will take treatment to the homes of those too ill to visit a hospital.

North Coast Area Health Service chief executive Chris Crawford said the program would come with a new wave of out-%patient clinics aimed at taking pressure off emergency departments and hospital wards.

The first of the clinics would come online at Port Macquarie in August, with others to start at Lismore Base Hospital, Coffs Harbour and Tweed Heads by November.

Initially, at least, the "hospital-in-the-home" component of those clinics would be limited to people too frail to make regular trips to the outpatient clinic and would be focused on recovery and keeping people well.

The "hospital" would be staffed by some existing base hospital and community-based health workers, along with some new staff.

A two-year study of the concept done in Sydney and pub- lished in the Australian Medical Journal found people suffering illnesses such as pneumonia or recovering from events such as minor stroke or heart attack who were treated at home had%roughly the same survival and recovery rate as those who stayed in hospital.

However, the study also found people who were treated at home were less often confused about what was happening to them and suffered fewer complications.

Mr Crawford said the area health service could consider that model once the hospital-in-the-home concept was firmly established, but ruled out extreme examples, such as a Canadian model where some surgery was done in people's homes.

Mr Crawford said the program would help keep hospital beds free for seriously ill patients while building a model that required fewer staff than a standard hospital setting. "This is a world-wide trend," he said. "People have worked out it is better for the patients.

"It may be (under the existing system) you have people coming back three or four times a year. That's not good quality of life for them and it's not a good way to run a hospital system."



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