How hospital coped with Coast's lesser-known COVID-19 threat

WHEN the COVID-19 outbreak forced Fraser Coast hospital staff to gear up for pending pandemic chaos, one of the many challenges was coming up with a plan for a particularly vulnerable group of locals.

How could they ensure chronic parents who frequently required hospital visits still got the care they needed while ensuring they didn't take up emergency department beds or become exposed to the danger zone?

That's where the recently established Integrated Care Access Team came in.

The idea of iCAT is to provide care for patients at home or closer to with a focus on wellness and community management and as a result, end the cycle of repeat emergency admissions and hospitalisations.

The local team came up with a rapid response for supporting people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

The Wide Bay has among the highest number of COPD sufferers across Australia, with rates estimated at about 25% higher than the state-wide average.

"The agility of our iCAT service meant were able to contact 462 high-risk COPD patients in the Wide Bay in a two-week period which ensured their safety and wellness was supported throughout the COVID-19 pandemic," iCAT Acting Operations Director Jacqueline Haskew said.

"Our iCAT team were overwhelmed by the grateful patient feedback they received during the phone calls.

"In addition to this work, our team also proactively supported 361 of our most chronic and complex patients in the Wide Bay region with Integrated Care management plans to support hospital avoidance."

That support work has led to a decrease in COPD presentations to WBHHS emergency departments, when typically presentations would increase in winter.

A spokeswoman for WBHHS said iCAT was continuing to develop alternative pathways and would work in partnership with local general practitioners, aged care facilities, Queensland Ambulance Service and other health stakeholders to deliver patient-centred care.

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