The $12 million Virtual Trauma and Critical Care Unit (VTCCu) has today officially opened and will connect some 260 regional Victorians a year to superior metropolitan medical services.
Melbourne clinicians monitor patient vital signs, clinical test results and x-rays through a live bedside video conferencing screen, and provide further medical advice and patient referrals.
The project builds on an existing telephone link between doctors in Melbourne and Bendigo to those in regional areas, and has been a some operational capacity since late last year in areas including Mildura.
It is funded by the federal government's Clever Networks Initiative, Multimedia Victoria, participating hospitals, and a consortium of suppliers including Telstra, Cerner Corporation and KPMG.
Bendigo Health director of emergency Dr Salomon Zalstein said the project saves time by linking into the state's Adult Retrieval Service which coordinates availability for critically ill patients.
“Anything that results in improved care and treatment for patients is always very welcomed,” Zalstein said in a statement.
Alan Taylor, chair of the Loddon Mallee Health Alliance which coordinated the project, said that the VTCCu may be expanded to serve other areas.
“With this project, more patients will be able to be treated in their local hospital, by their local doctor and remain close to their home, family and friends, reducing the stress and trauma of being transported to a metropolitan hospital,” Taylor said in a statement.
“This will also increase the knowledge of regional medical staff which will further improve patient care in regional and remote areas.”
The alliance also manages the $323 million Healthsmart initiative and The Connecting Clients 2 Care project.
Communications Minister Senator Conroy opened the unit today and said it is a candidate for the funding under the government's planned $46 million Digital Regions Initiative.
“This solution has obvious benefits for regional communities. It helps overcome skills shortages, enhances the capacity of hospitals and improves patient welfare,” Senator Conroy said.
“This is exactly the type of project that the government is interested in funding.”
The initiative, announced early this month, will fund IT-based projects in education, health and emergency services with a mix of federal and state funding.
The VTCCu will connect regional patients in Bendigo, Echuca, Mildura and Swan Hill to Melbourne and Bendigo.