Sutherland Hospital's Radius unit launches into 2019 with expansion of new care model

Rapid approach: Associate Professor Peter Gonski says Sutherland Hospital's new unit will reduce emergency department admissions. Picture: Chris Lane
Rapid approach: Associate Professor Peter Gonski says Sutherland Hospital's new unit will reduce emergency department admissions. Picture: Chris Lane

Sutherland Hospital has launched into 2019 with a new and Australian-first model of care, that aims to give patients greater flexibility in managing their chronic health conditions.

The Rapid Assessment, Diagnosis and Intervention Unit Sutherland (RADIUS) was designed to prevent, where possible, emergency admissions into an already very busy department. 

It is an alternative pathway for adults (16 years and older) who are not critically unwell, but rather have complex medical conditions. 

Thorough assessments are carried out, and patients are linked with community services to help them get back on track with their health.

The unit, which officially opened in Ocotber, is led by hospital director of aged care and rehabilitation for the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, Associate Professor Peter Gonski.

He says it provides rapid, responsive care and reduces the time patients spend in hospital. 

“Emergency departments in Australia are under increasing pressure due to the high demand for access to emergency services,” he said.

“Likewise, it is becoming more common for patients to present with multiple chronic conditions or a history of chronic illness.”

Dr Gonski says Sutherland Shire is an ideal location for the unit because of the area’s ageing population.

“[It has a] high number of people living with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis and high cholesterol,” he said.

Health focus: Dr Gonski and Dr Claire Keenan with nurse Shannon Presland and one of the unit's new patients, Meryl Bowman. Picture: Chris Lane

Health focus: Dr Gonski and Dr Claire Keenan with nurse Shannon Presland and one of the unit's new patients, Meryl Bowman. Picture: Chris Lane

“RADIUS aims to address some access challenges for people with these conditions, and provide benefits including improved links with GPs and outreach services to deliver patient care closer to home.”

The unit is staffed by doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and social workers.

Patient referrals are currently accepted from the hospital’s emergency department, community health and GPs in the area.

“This is a community based unit but within a hospital setting,” Dr Gonski said.

“It’s for a group of patients who may often fall through the cracks. Lots of younger patients who may be a bit sicker than average  – for example have blood pressure problems or skin infections. They aren’t critically ill and need high dependency, but they could deteriorate quite quickly. 

“We set up a model of senior specialised general physicians who have a good understanding of the whole body. They quickly assess patients and put management plans into place, and quickly get them home.

“Previously, many of these patients who clog up emergency, may have sat around for hours, and we’ve had lots of pressure on staff to see patients in good time. Now, some of these patients may not need to be admitted at all.

“Since opening in October we started with eight beds, now we’re going up to 14 and we hope to increase our hours from five days a week. The feedback has been sensational.”

Hospital general manager, Valerie Jovanovic, says the launch strengthens the hospital’s position as a leader in providing community integrated care.

“The primary objective of RADIUS is to improve the health outcomes of our patients, and to achieve a patient-centred approach with improved pathways and better coordination in order to discharge people home,” she said.

“RADIUS aims to support the fundamentals of effective healthcare – to ensure the right patients are treated in the right place for the care they require.”

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