Coffs Harbour residents are set to benefit from a free new service that aims to improve access to local healthcare.
North Coast Health Connect, now available for those living in Coffs Harbour postcodes, including the Nambucca and Bellingen regions, offers a free 1800 phone number or live web chat for residents to speak with a registered nurse any time of the day or night, including public holidays.
Funded by Healthy North Coast through the North Coast PHN program and delivered by Amplar Health, the service ensures urgent health concerns can be assessed quickly and confidentially by a trusted health professional. If needed, residents can be connected with a local service or a virtual care appointment.
Healthy North Coast’s Chief Executive Monika Wheeler said the service opens a new front door to local health care, including urgent care, for those unsure about the next step, helping to ease pressure on hospital resources.
‘Having launched to Port Macquarie residents in December and Kempsey residents last month, the service has already supported hundreds of locals to receive health advice quickly wherever they are and in a way that suits them.
‘We understand when there is a health urgency it’s important to get advice quickly no matter the time of day. North Coast Health Connect nurses will assess your symptoms and provide on-the-spot advice.
‘Most people don’t want to go to a hospital emergency department if they can avoid it, but it can be hard to get a GP appointment in some areas. Medical issues also often strike after hours when local services are closed.
‘North Coast Health Connect offers an alternative, with nurses on-call around the clock, ready to listen to your health concerns and connect you to the right level of care at the right time, including bookings with a local GP or pharmacist,’ said Ms Wheeler.
Ms Wheeler said the need to see a GP face-to-face for some health concerns will never change and participating local general practices have made appointments available specifically for users of the North Coast Health Connect service. The service is also strongly supported by the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA), with local pharmacists signed up to make consultations available.
Amplar Health Chief Executive Officer Dr Andrew Wilson said the Amplar team is thrilled to be delivering the North Coast Health Connect service to Coffs Harbour residents, as improving primary care access is a key element to ensuring the sustainability of healthcare in Australia.
‘Our digital and clinical expertise will ensure the service delivers increased access, choice and control to the local Coffs community,’ Dr Wilson said.
Mid North Coast Local Health District Chief Executive Stewart Dowrick said he fully supported this new and innovative model and will be promoting North Coast Health Connect through the Mid North Coast hospital system.
‘For those who may have been struggling to access the health system, North Coast Health Connect is a direct line to a qualified and trusted health professional, rather than facing a long wait in a busy ED.
‘It’s up to all of us to make the best possible use of our hospital resources and keep our emergency departments for emergencies,’ Mr Dowrick said.
Pharmaceutical Society of Australia National President Dr Fei Sim applauded Healthy North Coast for their innovation in a health system under increasing stress.
‘With the Australian health system under enormous pressure, there is an important role for pharmacists to play in supporting patients with non-urgent health care needs,’ Dr Sim said.
‘Services like North Coast Health Connect that connect patients with an appropriate healthcare profession – whether it be a GP, a pharmacist, or another health professional – are vital to ensuring our health system efficiently utilises all resources,’ said Dr Sim.
Ms Wheeler said North Coast Health Connect delivers on what the North Coast community asked for – being able to speak to a health expert for free over a convenient and confidential 24/7 channel with connections to face-to-face local health care.
‘We are excited to see Coffs Harbour residents have access to this service which has already supported many in Port Macquarie and Kempsey. We encourage you to speak with a North Coast Health Connect nurse on 1800 198 888 or live chat at northcoasthealthconnect.org.au next time you have an urgent health issue,’ said Ms Wheeler.
Amplar and Healthy North Coast are planning to make North Coast Health Connect available to all North Coast residents by mid-2023.
North Coast Health Connect will also be evaluated by world-leading medical research centre, The George Institute for Global Health, over the next five years.
To find out more about North Coast Health Connect, visit northcoasthealthconnect.org.au