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Victoria Expands Virtual Emergency Services to Reduce Unnecessary Trips to Hospital

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The Victorian Government has announced the expansion of Australia’s first-ever virtual emergency department, aiming to double its patient capacity.

This innovative service, known as the Victorian Virtual Emergency Department (VVED), currently offers urgent care through video consultations to approximately 550 Victorians daily. With this expansion, it seeks to cater to over 1,000 individuals daily, offering medical advice and potentially reducing unnecessary hospital visits.

Introduced initially as a pilot in Melbourne’s north in October 2020, the VVED became available statewide in April 2022. Since its inception, it has provided over 256,000 clinical assessments, medical advice, treatments, and local referrals, preventing 86% of these patients from making unnecessary hospital visits.

The state government has committed over $235 million to sustain this 24/7 service delivered by the Northern Hospital. The funding aims to recruit additional clinicians to double the VVED’s capacity, allowing more Victorians to receive consultations from the comfort of their homes or workplaces. This expansion is also designed to enhance direct referrals from various healthcare services, thereby alleviating the overall pressure on the health system.

In addition to the VVED, Victorians have been increasingly utilising the 29 Priority Primary Care Centres (PPCCs), with over 316,000 visits recorded since their rollout in September 2022. These centres and the VVED form part of the government’s strategy to provide more accessible and affordable healthcare.

Premier Jacinta Allan said about the expansion, “We’re doubling the Virtual ED’s capacity so more Victorians can get the urgent care they need from their own homes—taking pressure off our busy emergency departments.”

Minister for Health Mary-Anne Thomas highlighted the broader context of healthcare access.

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“With too many people unable to see their GP and bulk-billing doctors few and far between, there is more pressure on hospitals—but our investments in the virtual emergency department and the Priority Primary Care Centres are helping deliver more accessible and affordable care to people, when and where they need it,” Minister Thomas said.

Local representatives also voiced their support for the initiative. Member for Mill Park Lily D’Ambrosio remarked, “Doubling the capacity of the Virtual ED service will ensure more members of our community have access to this alternative urgent care option, which is helping reduce pressure on our busy emergency departments.”

“Congratulations to our local Northern Hospital team who are delivering this innovative service – their hard work in designing and developing the VVED is improving care across the state and seeing real results,” said Bronwyn Halfpenny, Member for Thomastown, who praised the local efforts behind the service.

Lauren Kathage, Member for Yan Yean, expressed her enthusiasm for the expansion, “I am thrilled that we are expanding our Virtual ED, which provides critical care to so many Victorians, including communities right here in Melbourne’s North.”

While the expansion of the VVED is seen as a positive step towards enhancing healthcare accessibility and efficiency, the community needs to remember that in case of emergencies, contacting Triple Zero or visiting the nearest emergency department is still the recommended course of action. For more information or to access the Victorian Virtual Emergency Department, individuals are encouraged to visit vved.org.au.

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