$5.2m gift to transform out-of-hospital care

Dec 12 2017

From left, Michael DiRienzo, Scott Walkom, Jane Gray, Michael Nilsson, Taylor Martin, Alan Loudfoot and Rebecca Palser

A $5.2 million philanthropic gift to the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI), announced today, will help to advance emergency out-of-hospital paramedical treatment and telehealth care for patients across NSW over the next five years.

The funding forges a collaborative alliance between HMRI, NSW Ambulance and the Hunter New England Local Health District. It aims to improve the delivery of excellence in patient care by maintaining the confidence and competence of paramedics when treating both complex high-consequence out-of-hospital emergencies, such as cardiac arrest, and low acuity non-transport referral pathways that may reduce preventable hospitalisations and ease demand for Emergency Departments.

Under the project, NSW Ambulance will extend the reach and availability of its current high quality training and strengthen the clinical professional culture of its paramedics through additional peer-led simulation education and training.

The extraordinarily generous gift will allow NSW Ambulance training facilities to be upgraded and new education equipment, including advanced technology simulation mannikins, to be purchased. It will also secure extra Clinical and Technical Education staff, along with telehealth IT support staff.

Additionally, a dedicated Research Fellowship will be established to enable the evaluation of the simulation project and translation of potential new models of patient care to inform future healthcare policies, technologies and education curriculum.

HMRI Director Professor Michael Nilsson says the donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, was motivated to provide this support to improve access to high-quality care particularly for vulnerable and rural communities. The rollout of the program will commence in rural NSW.

“This is the largest single donation in HMRI’s history and it represents a transformational step towards delivering world-leading, out-of-hospital care, particularly to those living outside metropolitan areas,” Professor Nilsson says.

“A person’s postcode shouldn’t impact their medical care. We can address the current imbalance by mobilising medicine and furnishing regional communities with more sophisticated telehealth technologies.”

NSW Ambulance Commissioner Dominic Morgan welcomed the gift, saying it will assist the emergency service to enhance and maintain optimum currency and capability within their current and any future scope of practice.

“We are honoured to receive this generous gift. This significant investment in our paramedic training capability will ensure a consistent and current standard of training and capability is maintained outside of metropolitan areas,” Commissioner Morgan said. “Through this, our paramedics will be able to maintain their advanced clinical skills and knowledge and practice closer team building in an advanced simulation environment, ensuring the best possible patient outcomes.”

NSW Ambulance Executive Director of Clinical Services, Allan Loudfoot, said the donation would enable the further roll out of locally available advanced simulation mannikins and the development of learning modules, able to be used at a local station level.

“This wonderful gift will enable us to help our staff sustain their learning from our current and future education programs. We are now able to design and implement a unique model of peer-to-peer education that supports NSW Ambulance in maintaining a capable workforce and delivering excellence in patient care,” Mr Loudfoot said.  

HNELHD Executive Director of Partnerships, Innovation and Research, Jane Gray, says the project builds on the Local Health District’s (LHD) long-term goals of keeping people healthy and in their communities by providing world-class clinical services and timely access to healthcare.

“This is an exciting opportunity to further explore the use of telehealth technology to enhance access to healthcare for rural and regional patients,” Ms Gray says.

“As one of the largest Local Health Districts in NSW, our challenge is to ensure we deliver consistent, quality healthcare regardless of where people live. We are tackling this challenge head-on by investing significantly in telehealth technology, which is bridging the gap in healthcare access for people living in the furthest reaches of our district.”

NSW Member of the Legislative Council, Taylor Martin, also welcomed the opportunities the donation would provide for the delivery of health services.

“NSW Ambulance and Hunter New England LHD already provide such incredible services to the community and it will be exciting to see how this donation will further support that work,” he said.

“On behalf of the NSW Government, I would like to extend my gratitude to the donor for recognising the contribution of NSW Ambulance paramedics and LHD staff by providing this generous boost.”

HMRI Health Research Economist, Professor Andrew Searles, will be measuring the program’s impact on the healthcare system, using Health Technology Assesment modelling developed at HMRI.

“We will measure the return on investment, or cost savings, gained by increasing the clinical capability of paramedics and integrating care with the GP network, mental health facilities, aged-care facilities and hospitals,” he said.