The Centre of Emergency Medicine was established in 2007 to provide clinical leadership and undertake research and training in emergency services in rural and regional settings. One of the goals of the Centre is to provide a model of development and delivery of emergency medical care for other Australian regional and rural health services.
Its offices are situated at Centre for Research Education and Teaching (CREATe) at South West Healthcare (Warrnambool campus). Based there are the Director, Associate Research Fellow, Associate Lecturer in Rural Emergency Medicine. CREM also works with South West Healthcare to employ a Project Support Officer and Drug and Alcohol Facilitator. At various times CREM has employed casual project workers in Portland, Camperdown, Moyne, Timboon, Terang, and Heywood.
CREM seeks to help develop rural emergency medicine in four ways.
At the time of CREM’s conception, the rural emergency departments of Warrnambool and Portland were staffed almost entirely by junior doctors and there was little capacity to respond to a major incident, such as a bushfire or industrial accident. It was hoped that the Centre could recruit a general practice registrar, supervised by a part-time emergency specialist. In addition, some research partnerships would be created.
In the years since the Centre commenced, CREM has successfully achieved these goals and demand for services is continuing to expand. Portland District Health now has emergency medicine specialists working 12 hours each week, and five additional doctors currently undertaking postgraduate emergency medicine qualifications. South West Healthcare has emergency medicine specialists based in the Emergency Department for a minimum of 50 hours a week and they are oncall around the clock. Remote medicine specialists and procedural general practitioners have extended their senior staff coverage from 8:00am to 10:00pm daily.
There are now accredited registrar training posts in general practice and emergency medicine. Telemedicine systems link small hospitals to South West Healthcare, and all sized hospitals to specialist adult and paediatric retrieval services. Highly trained nurse practitioners work for South West Healthcare and are expanding into smaller services to support the nurses and doctors there.
The Director of CREM has also represented rural emergency care needs on state and national committees.
CREM contributes to teaching programs coordinated by Deakin Medical School’s Greater Green Triangle Clinical School based at Warrnambool. The Centre also provides emergency medical training for junior and senior medical staff, as well as regional medical practitioners and GPs. One of the key tasks of CREM is to help these groups stay abreast of emergency medicine principles and new techniques.
A key objective for CREM is to address the dearth of research in rural emergency medicine. Rural health and emergency medicine journals are now well established but unfortunately publish very few articles on rural emergency medicine. See the projects section for a list of current research topics.
In recent years there have been many media reports, of variable quality, on the difficulty of treating emergencies in rural areas. To improve community understanding, the staff members of CREM have contributed to public debate with a series of interviews, media releases, and lectures. We are particularly proud of our ongoing EmbeddED project, where professional artists are embedded with the emergency department staff and provide a unique insight for the community into emergency care.