Port Macquarie and Camden Haven residents can now access an innovative service described as a new front door to local healthcare.
North Coast Health Connect aims to improve access to healthcare.
The new service, funded by Healthy North Coast and delivered by Amplar Health, ensures urgent health concerns can be assessed quickly and confidentially with nurses on-call around the clock.
Residents in eligible postcodes can call 1800 198 888 or access a live web chat to speak with a registered nurse.
If needed, residents can be connected with a local service or a virtual care appointment.
That could be a booking to see a local GP or pharmacist or accessing a GP telehealth service.
Healthy North Coast chief executive Monika Wheeler recognised the pressure on the health system.
Ms Wheeler said the service opened a new front door to local healthcare, including urgent care, for those unsure about the next step, helping to ease pressure on hospital resources.
"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," she said.
"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."
Amplar Health chief executive officer Dr Andrew Wilson described North Coast Health Connect as a beacon for what can be done in local communities to make healthcare better.
He said emergency departments across the country were being overburdened, often with people desperate for care but they didn't know where to go or how to access that care.
"I think this service really gets the people to the right care at the right time and uses existing services to do so," Dr Wilson said.
That could still mean an emergency department visit.
There are plans to make North Coast Health Connect available to all North Coast residents in early 2023.
Patients can be referred to appointments with community pharmacists through the new service.
Pharmaceutical Society of Australia project manager Chris Braithwaite said the private consultation will be within community pharmacists' current scope of practice.
"It is really exciting for community pharmacy and pharmacists to be involved in this process," Mr Braithwaite said about North Coast Health Connect.
North Coast Health Connect was designed in partnership with community members and health service providers.
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 hospital system.
"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.
More information is available on the North Coast Health Connect website.
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