19 October 2023

Virtual health care centre helps to ease pressure on ambulance calls, hospital visits

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Ryan Park, Dominic Morgan and VCCC staff member Beth at a media conference.

Ryan Park, Dominic Morgan and Virtual Clinical Care Centre staff member Beth. More nurses and physicians are needed for the centre as it expands. Photo: NSW Government.

A statewide virtual health care system has been so successful in diverting patients from hospital emergency departments that it’s about to expand.

The state’s Virtual Clinical Care Centre (VCCC) was created in the space of 10 days during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NSW Government has now launched a major recruitment drive to fill a range of clinical positions, as the centre continues to grow.

Health Minister and Keira MP Ryan Park said the VCCC helped NSW Ambulance respond to triple zero (000) calls more effectively, operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and providing expert clinical and medical secondary triage capability.

“A significant number of calls made to triple zero do not require a paramedic response, and that’s where our expert clinical staff in the VCCC step in,” Mr Park said.

“The VCCC was created during the pandemic at a time of unprecedented triple zero call volumes and showed it was more than capable to manage this extreme demand and keep patients safe.

“During the devastating 2022 floods where some people requiring medical attention were isolated by floodwaters, VCCC clinicians were able to provide ongoing clinical care to these patients virtually while they were waiting to be rescued.”

Mr Park said the VCCC saved more than 12,000 patients from attending the emergency department last year, reducing demand on the hospital system.

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“VCCC clinicians had contact with more than 100,000 triple zero callers during this period to triage or provide support for 46,000 patients, who didn’t require urgent care by offering secondary health services available within the community,” he said.

Calls to triple zero are handled by the NSW Ambulance Control Centre, which triages calls and prioritises the sending of ambulances.

If an ambulance is not required immediately, VCCC clinicians perform secondary triage to better understand the needs of the patient.

Some patients can be managed safely at home while others are referred to their GP, pharmacy or other health care services.

NSW Ambulance Commissioner Dr Dominic Morgan said the VCCC started with a small number of specialist clinicians on duty 16 hours a day.

“Two years on, it’s a 24/7 operation, which will have more than 100 staff over the next three years,” he said.

“As part of the VCCC expansion NSW Ambulance is seeking experienced registered nurse and/or registered paramedic triage clinicians, clinical nurse consultants and specialist physicians to join the fast-growing multidisciplinary team.”

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