SAVES launches in country SA

On Tuesday 12 December 2017 the Minister for Health, the Hon. Peter Malinauskas MLC, officially launched the rollout of the South Australian Virtual Emergency Service (SAVES) at 16 Country Health sites across the state.

SAVES links doctors in Adelaide with patients and their local health workers in country emergency departments via the existing Digital Telehealth Network, enabling face-to-face consults using video conferencing equipment.

Through SAVES, GPs based at the Rural Doctors Workforce Agency (RDWA) site in Adelaide provide remote medical assistance to low acuity patients (triage category three, four and five) who present to their local emergency department when the local resident GP is unavailable.  

This means that local GPs will have the option of being called out to treat high acuity patients only, reducing fatigue by allowing them to rest at night while low acuity patients can be treated by GPs over the SAVES network.

Mr Malinauskas said it was great to be able to work in partnership with the Rural Doctors Workforce Agency to deliver remote medical assistance, which is all about supporting doctors in smaller country hospitals between the hours of 11pm and 7am.

“Patients who present to country hospitals in the middle of the night can be reassured patient care will not be compromised and they will continue to receive high quality emergency medical support.

“This additional support enables local GPs and nursing staff to provide safe care as close to home as possible for people living in rural and remote communities,” he said.

Rural Doctors Workforce Agency Chief Executive Officer, Lyn Poole, also attended the launch.

“I am delighted the RDWA has been engaged to provide the workforce for Country Health SA’s SAVES program.

“The RDWA’s hub site in Adelaide is the base for a panel of experienced rural doctors to provide telemedicine support when requested by a country hospital or GP.

“High quality digital cameras situated in the local hospital accident and emergency room allow our doctors in Adelaide to examine patients via video link and support the local nursing staff to provide appropriate care.

“We believe SAVES supports country communities in their efforts to retain high quality, experienced doctors by allowing them to have a night off knowing our GPs can provide support to their team,” she said.

The 16 SAVES sites are:

  • Cleve District Hospital
  • Cowell District Hospital
  • Cummins and District Memorial Hospital
  • Elliston Hospital
  • Hawker Memorial Hospital
  • Karoonda and District Hospital
  • Kimba District Hospital
  • Lameroo District Health Service
  • Laura and District Hospital
  • Meningie and Districts Memorial Hospital
  • Pinnaroo Soldiers Memorial Hospital
  • Quorn Health Service
  • Strathalbyn and District Health Service
  • Streaky Bay Hospital
  • Tailem Bend District Hospital
  • Wudinna Hospital.

Country Health SA Chief Executive Officer, Maree Geraghty said the sites were selected based on where it is difficult to provide a 24/7 medical service.

“It will be entirely the decision of the on-call rural GP whether to switch over to SAVES on any given night.

“Country GPs should be reassured that SAVES is not a replacement service; SAVES is designed to support rural doctors’ existing practices, provide greater flexibility for their operating hours and improve their work-life balance by allowing them to take well-deserved time off.

“Anyone who requires critical care will, as normal practice, be referred to MedSTAR,” she said.

The official SAVES launch follows a trial period which commenced in February 2017.

SAVES won the Minister’s Innovation Award at the 2017 SA Health Awards.

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