Australian Unity is trialling an after-hours service providing a nurse practitioner for people that don’t need urgent hospital treatment in Vermont South, Victoria. In my role as a Placement Specialist I feel this is a step in the right direction as this initiative has the potential to make a huge difference to aged care and the hospital system in general. It has always been a traumatic experience for the elderly to lie in wait in the emergency bay waiting for attention. They can wait hours at a time when all they need is a doctor to provide medication. This happens because they can’t get doctors after hours at aged care facilities so the facilities send residents to hospital, which contributes to emergency department overload and long waits.
This nurse practitioner is being made available to the Victoria Grange Aged Care and Retirement Community’s 104 residents as well as over 5,000 people aged over 65 living within a 10km radius.
The service has been running for six weeks with the nurse practitioner in the clinic two evenings and three days a week. A nurse practitioner can prescribe medications, write referrals and order radiology services unlike a registered nurse (RN). The nurse practitioner will also work with the resident’s doctor, providing continuity of care.
This service was created by Australian Unity following a study trip to the US in 2015, where they saw a number of models in which nursing home providers are paid to keep seniors healthy and active. Derek McMillan, the CEO of Independent and Assisted Living, said they were looking into plans to expand the service. “Should the trial be successful, we predict that we could permanently engage two nurse practitioners to be on call, seven days a week,” he said.
With changes afoot in the aged care sector, and having been involved in the aged care sector for many years, I can only applaud Australian Unity’s proactive approach at broadening its services and providing more efficient options for resident’s ongoing medical care.