Innovative link to medical specialists

May 2010

An innovative online program is bringing specialist medical support directly into the emergency department of Portland District Health.

The new monitor system connects patients in Portland to a network of skilled specialists around Victoria.

The new Datascope Panorama Central Monitor and Web Viewer allow doctors in Portland to consult specialists who will be able see and monitor their patients via on-screen images.

Centre for Rural Emergency Medicine Director and Portland Emergency Department Director, Dr Tim Baker, said the system would ensure patients get the very best care available.

Alcoa Australia has funded the new hardware and software through its Partnering Stronger Communities program.

Dr Baker said the equipment would collect a patient’s pulse, blood pressure, heart rhythm and breathing patterns and monitor trends such as falling blood pressure or increasing pulse rate. The web viewer makes the information available on a secure internet site.

Dr Baker said Portland hospital staff already consulted specialists from larger centres on a regular basis and transferred information such as X-rays and photographs.

“The Panorama weblink is the most important aspect of this telemedicine capability in that it provides direct access to the vital signs that are so important in assessing a critically ill patient,” he said.

Dr Baker said that doctors in rural hospitals such as Portland were often isolated from specialist support.

“Rural hospitals simple cannot employ every type of medical specialist and it is not uncommon to seek specialist support a few times per week. With the new monitor an emergency physician can now call for advice to and the specialist can see the patient and monitor their vital signs. As they say, a picture tells a thousand stories.”

“The specialist can log in and view streaming patient data remotely from virtually anywhere.”

It is expected the system will be used by the emergency physician on call for the Portland and Warrnambool hospitals, the Cardiology Unit at Geelong Hospital, the Alfred Hospital and the Adult Retrieval Service in Melbourne.

Dr Baker said it would be used for the safe care of patients with a variety of critical conditions or injuries and would be used to monitor patients waiting for transfer by air services to other hospitals.

Dr Baker said Alcoa’s support for the project was fantastic. “This equipment will save lives,” he said.

The Centre for Rural Emergency Medicine, which is based at Deakin University in Warrnambool, is also funded by Alcoa Australia in conjunction with the Department of Health.

Portland Hospital responds to a major challenge

April 2009

Portland District Health’s revamped emergency department has recorded a successful response to a major bus accident on Thursday night.

The hospital accepted all patients from the crash, including those with serious chest and spinal injuries.

Associate Professor Tim Baker, from the Centre for Rural Emergency Medicine (CREM), said the emergency department had successfully coped with the situation.

“On the night of the bus crash the system worked the way it was planned,” Associate Professor Baker said.

He said the department had undergone a transformation over the past 12 months, with recruitment of experienced doctors, installation of new equipment and emergency nurses gaining experience in Melbourne trauma centres.

“The terrible and unfortunate events of the Portland bus crash gave the hospital its first chance to fully demonstrate these changes,” Associate Professor Baker said.

“It succeeded because of the work done over the past few months. Months of preparation have gone into last night running smoothly,” he added.

Associate Professor Baker said the successful response showed the benefits of having rural doctors and a responsive emergency department at Portland.

The hospital has remodelled its emergency department as part of its commitment to improving services to the Portland region.

Two hospital doctors, two specialist emergency physicians, a general practitioner and many nurses trained specifically in trauma care were involved in the response on Thursday night.

Patients were stabilized and given pain relief. The most seriously injured patients had their injuries investigated by CT scan and were transferred to The Alfred and South West Healthcare in Warrnambool, where appropriate surgical units were expecting them. Stable patients were treated locally and admitted to Portland District Health or discharged.

At 2pm Friday … patients remain in PDH with minor injuries. Their conditions are stable. Nine passengers and the driver were taken to the hospital after the bus crash which claimed three lives at 6.40pm on Thursday

CREM is funded by Alcoa, Deakin University, Portland Hospital and Warrnambool hospital has also contributed. Funding from CREM provides a specialist emergency physician, Associate Professor Baker, to assist in the continuing improvement of emergency medicine in Portland.

He said two specialist emergency physicians work in the emergency department each week. “They have focused on staff training, working with local general practitioners, improving protocols, stocking of appropriate equipment and streamlining interaction with pathology and radiological services. In particular, they have worked on improving the way patients are transported from Portland hospital to city hospitals.”

Associate Professor Baker said recent media reports had highlighted the difficulties in getting country patients to the city for surgery.

“CREM has a voice on regional committees overseeing emergency transport of patients, and staff have been trained in the best way to have the system work for their patients.”