News : Queensland Health Considers Increasing Over-the-phone Assessments
Brisbane, Australia, July 17, 2015 -- Queensland Health is considering an increased use of over-the-phone assessments of triple-0 calls to weed out less serious cases and divert them to GPs.
The department wants to cut the number of non-essential cases ending up in the state’s busy emergency departments, especially those of high-traffic hospitals.
One measure under consideration involves an increased use of call centre staff to evaluate cases and "when appropriate" book a GP appointment for them rather than an ambulance.
Queensland Ambulance Service call centres are staffed by specially trained communications officers, who make decisions and prioritise cases under the supervision of experienced paramedics.
But some medical experts have expressed concerns, with Australian Medical Association Queensland president Chris Zappala describing it as "not ideal".
"Clearly and obviously it’s not always going to be possible to correctly differentiate a patient’s needs over the phone," he said.
Dr Zappala said "that’s not to say that there wouldn’t possibly be some extraordinarily non-acute cases that could be diverted."
The Australian Paramedics Association Queensland’s Prebs Sathiaseelan worried about whether staff would be protected if something went wrong.
"Is the person that’s taking the call going to be held responsible? Are they going to crucify that person now, who acted in good faith, with the limited information that he had?" Mr Sathiaseelan said.
"That’s where most of us paramedics or call-takers are scared to make that decision."
The department is also looking at having paramedics perform more "low-level treatments" themselves.
The considerations are part of an informal review to "identify alternative pathways of care better suited to the patient’s needs rather than mandatory referral to an emergency department".
Buried within the QAS Service Delivery Statement in this week’s Budget papers were a handful of lines about the review.
The papers revealed one of the "key deliverables" for the QAS for the 2015-16 financial year includes "reviewing extended paramedic practice options so as to ensure the service compliments the evolving needs of the community".
Health Minister Cameron Dick said it was about finding viable ways of "making sure the people who get to the emergency department are the people who need to get to emergency department".
The Government is also looking at increasing the number of single-officer vehicles.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Monday, July 20, 2015