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Program keeps Gold Coast elderly out of hospital

Dr Nemat Alsaba (left) and Julie Lovatt from Gold Coast Health (right) are pictured with Logan Irwin and his daughter Lisa Irwin at Ozcare Ozanam Villa Aged Care Facility at Burleigh Heads.

Gold Coast Health's Residential Acute Support Services (RASS) program sends doctors and nurses into residential aged-care facilities (RACF) to help reduce older person admissions to hospitals. 

Thanks to the RASS initiative, 1800 people aged 65 and older were cared for at a RACF facility in three months and avoided a trip to emergency departments.  

RASS offers outreach and in-reach service, with the outreach initiative visiting residents in aged care for face-to-face assessment and offering clinical advice over the phone or FaceTime.

Staff also provide clinical support to meet acute care needs, such as starting IV antibiotics, mobile X-rays and support with end-of-life care. Senior nursing staff are also on call to provide telephone triage and advice to RACF workers to support hospital avoidance where appropriate.

For elderly residents who present to ED or are admitted to hospital, the in-reach service team liaise with the treating hospital teams, GPs and aged care staff to help with a timely discharge and an individualised plan for continuity of care.

The program also links discharged patients with domestic cleaning, personnel hygiene, transport, physio, and occupational therapy in the community. 

Lisa Irwin said her 88-year-old father Logan Irwin had been a resident at Ozcare Ozanam Villa Burleigh Heads for nearly a year and was very happy to avoid a trip to hospital.

"He's had a few visits from doctors, which has been wonderful," she said.

"The last time he was unwell, if this RASS team hadn't been available, he would have been taken to hospital and been all alone because it was during lockdown.

"A lot of older people have never had to go to hospital, and they're not used to the environment, and it's quite traumatic for them."

While the data shows the program is working, Dr Nemat Alsaba, an emergency physician at GCUH who oversees the initiatives, said not everything that matters can be measured.

"It is honourable to care for those who once cared for us," said Dr Alsaba.

"It is also rewarding to give back and pay our respect to our seniors, to whom we are in debt for their contribution and sacrifice to build the country and the community that we live in.

"Giving back in GEM is to ensure that our older people have equal opportunities to access health care services with care delivery that caters for their unique needs.

"Simply put, it may be said that how we care for our older people in our community is a great test of our moral, cultural, and professional integrity."

Gold Coast Health was allocated $2.47m by Queensland Health's Health Improvement Unit to run the program.

Last updated 01 Nov 2021