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    Survey reveals Northern NSW residents waiting a week or longer for health advice, North Coast Health Connect improving access

    New findings released today show that many Northern New South Wales residents struggle to get a GP appointment and are often waiting a week or more to see their local doctor, as the country’s healthcare worker shortage crisis worsens.

    A survey was recently undertaken by Amplar Health in support of a new telehealth service- North Coast Health Connect. The survey of local residents revealed that close to one in three (31%) have had to wait a week or longer to see a doctor – more than double the country’s national average (13%).

    With local health systems already under immense pressure, North Coast residents are presenting to emergency departments for ailments that could be addressed outside of a hospital by another health professional in their community.

    In fact, close to a quarter (24%) of Northern NSW locals have been to the emergency department for a non-urgent medical problem in their lifetime, with more than 1 in 10 (13%) claiming it took up to five hours to see a medical professional once admitted.

    North Coast Health Connect has been launched in a bid to improve access to health advice and reduce waiting times for locals attending GP practices or presenting to hospitals. Available to Northern New South Wales residents, the telehealth service offers confidential healthcare advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

    The service connects locals with qualified nurses who provide clinical support and advice to patients over the phone or via online chat. When healthcare advice is needed but it may not warrant a visit to the emergency room, North Coast Health Connect is available for consultation. Where clinically appropriate, nurses can also organise for the patient to see a GP face to face, or schedule an appointment with a pharmacist.

    Dr Peter Baird, Senior Medical Advisor, Amplar Health, said he was unsurprised to hear that more than a third (40%) of locals are concerned about accessibility to healthcare.

    He added that overly-long wait times and rising medical costs were also of concern to local residents and clinicians.

    “The survey is consistent with our engagement of local clinicians and community members - Northern New South Wales locals are concerned about healthcare access and are in favour of additional healthcare services to address non-urgent medical needs” he said.

    “North Coast Health Connect is a new way to access healthcare that helps overcome these challenges. A confidential 24/7 telehealth service helps locals get answers to health queries by connecting them to a nurse who will help them manage their symptoms or support them to find appropriate care” added Dr Baird.

    Dr Baird also believes the service will help relieve a strained healthcare system.

    “On average, more than 1 in 3 (37%) locals told us they visit their local emergency room department at least once a year,” he said.

    “A similar number (41%) also said they take their child to the local emergency department once a year. Yet, many of these instances may not have required urgent care. This is where North Coast Health Connect can really provide benefit to residents and support our clinicians who are doing an amazing job serving our community.”

    Using this service takes the pressure off existing health services because it redirects people to the right care at the right time.

    “Put simply, North Coast Health Connect is here to offer Northern NSW locals, and their families, the support and advice needed for medical concerns that do not require a visit to the emergency room.”

    Dr Baird concludes that success of the new offering will be based on one key element - safe and effective care for the North Coast community.

    “One in three locals claim being unable to access healthcare in a timely manner has previously affected their employment and social commitments, while more than double that figure (61%) claimed it has led to significant stress on themselves or their families.”

    “Working alongside trusted local health professionals, such as GPs and pharmacists, North Coast Health Connect is here for the community. We want to make healthcare available for everyone, when and where they need it. If we do that, we’ve done our job.”

    Eligible residents must be based in or around Northern New South Wales - a full list of available suburbs can be found here.

    North Coast Health Connect can be reached on 1800 198 888, or further information is available on their website.

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