Bold plan for home-based health checks
By ALEX EASTON
BEING sick is never any sort of picnic, but Lismore man Doug Myler reckons it would have been a lot nicer without a six-week stay at Lismore Base Hospital.
However, the next time he falls ill, Mr Myler may find the hospital coming to him under a new 'hospital in the home' program to be launched within months.
North Coast Area Health Service chief executive Chris Crawford said the program would come with a new wave of outpatient clinics aimed at taking pressure off hospitals.
The first of the clinics would come online at Port Macquarie in August with others to start at Lismore Base Hospital, Coffs Harbour and Tweed Heads by November.
Initially, at least, the 'hospital in the home' component of those clinics would be limited to people too frail to make regular trips to the outpatient clinic and would be focused on recovery and keeping people well.
The 'hospital' would be staffed by some existing base hospital and community-based health workers, along with some new staff.
A two-year study of the concept, done in Sydney, and published in the Australian Medical Journal, found people suffering illnesses such as pneumonia or recovering from events such as minor stroke or heart attack who were treated at home had roughly the same survival and recovery rate as those who stayed in hospital.
However, the study also found people who were treated at home were less often confused about what was happening to them and suffered fewer complications.
Mr Crawford said the area health service could consider that model once the hospital in the home concept was firmly established, but ruled out extreme examples, such as a Canadian model where some surgery was done in people's homes.
For Mr Myler, 82, the idea offered a chance to hold on to his precious independence even when he was badly ill.
Mr Myler said he'd only been in hospital twice in his life once during the war when he contracted malaria and once two years ago, at Lismore Base Hospital, when he had to have his gall bladder out. Neither was an experience he was in a rush to repeat.
While praising staff at the Base Hospital, Mr Myler said the pressure on the wards meant he was often left to his own devices.
At the time he was struggling to communicate with the friends and family who visited him and simple requests for items from home became much more stressful issues than they needed to be.
"While I was in the hospital I was, in many ways, quite helpless, Mr Myler said.
"I'm a bit pig-headed and I tend to say I can look after myself. By staying at home, I would get to keep my independence."