Aged care residents are now receiving better support in a location of their choice thanks to a new Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service program.
The Residential Aged Care Facility (RACF) Support Service (RaSS), which was launched by WBHHS last month is a new patient-focused team made up of multi-disciplinary members including medical, nursing, allied health and administration.
Under the new collaboration, the RaSS team works with RACFs to give residents the option of receiving safe clinical support in their own environment rather than visiting a hospital setting.
Wide Bay Hospital and Health Board Chair Peta Jamieson said the RaSS model was another great demonstration of key goals in WBHHS’s strategic plan, Care Comes First… Through Patients’ Eyes, including enhancing holistic health care and delivering more care locally.
“Acutely unwell residents living in RACFs have specific care needs that may, at times, exceed the capability of the RACF to manage independently of the hospital sector,” Ms Jamieson said.
“RaSS provides care in collaborative partnership with RACFs, general practitioners (GPs) and community service providers to improve the quality and safety of care provided across the care continuum, in a location of the patients’ choice where they feel most comfortable, when it is safe to do so.
“While the primary focus of the model is empowering patients to choose their preferred care setting, it also frees up our emergency departments and hospitals, and ensures our older patients are not unnecessarily coming into an unfamiliar and often stressful environment.
“This new service is also supported by the Healthy ageing: A strategy for older Queenslanders, which focusses on helping Queenslanders to stay well in the community, to receive care closer to home and promoting seamless connection to health services.”
WBHHS Chief Executive Debbie Carroll said she was delighted that RaSS was now operating in Wide Bay after the successful rollout of the proven and sustainable model in other hospital and health services.
“RaSS is the single point of contact for RACF staff and GPs with residents with acute healthcare needs, ensuring a continuum of care and a timely and consistent approach,” Ms Carroll said.
“If a patient becomes unwell, the GP or RACF nursing staff can contact our experienced RaSS nurses, who have emergency and geriatric assessment skills and are supported by senior doctors from the emergency department, who will assess the resident’s needs and care goals and match the most appropriate care and treatment pathway.
“If necessary and supported by the patient, RaSS can arrange for a specialist nurse or emergency department doctor to visit the RACF to provide emergency substitutive care, allowing the patient to receive care in familiar surrounds.
“If transfer to a hospital is required, the RaSS team can contact the emergency department and provide a high-quality clinical handover in advance of the patient arriving, to ensure the right resources and equipment are in place enabling timely provision of care.
“As our population ages, we will face increased pressure on our health services and increased demand for chronic disease management, so the more elderly residents we can care for in the community or we can discharge and get them home quickly, the better.”
Acting Executive Director of Nursing and Midwifery Cameron Duffy said a substantial body of work had been underway since 2020 to establish the new RaSS model and ensure that it was fit for purpose for the Wide Bay region.
“In WBHHS catchment alone, we have 33 accredited RACFs which includes four multipurpose health services, which are home to almost 2300 residents,” Mr Duffy said.
“Through our investigations, we found that RACF residents in Wide Bay are three times more likely to present to emergency for medical care than other older adults.
“In 2020, there were 3194 presentations to a Wide Bay emergency department and over 40 per cent of these presentations were deemed as unnecessary transfers or potentially preventable hospitalisations.
“Our RaSS clinicians can link residents to community-based providers or hospital-based services (in-person, or via telehealth) to fulfil the resident’s care needs in a manner consistent with their goals of care.
“We also follow-up with all of our residents, whether they have remained at home or presented to hospital.
“In the instance residents have presented to hospital, at around seven days after they have returned home, we liaise with the resident, GP, RACF and family about the patient journey and experience, to evaluate what went well and identify any areas for improvement.
“Another key element of the RaSS is working with GPs, RACFs to share and learn new skills and build confidence across all the teams to provide the best possible care to the frailest in our community.
“The new RaSS service will go a long way to improving these statistics and ensuring that our patients receive the right care, in the right place, at the right time.”