Western Sydney’s Rapid Response: Care in the Community for COVID-19 initiative empowers local health partners to coordinate digital care provision for COVID-19 patients. The program, a joint initiative between WentWest – the Western Sydney Primary Health Network (WSPHN), and Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD), sets a precedent for future home-based patient care. The result, protecting hospitals from being overwhelmed whilst effectively providing community-based care for patients.
WSPHN and WSLHD have been working together to explore ways of providing enhanced and timely patient care as part of the Western Sydney Care Collective, a vision for ‘one Western Sydney care system’. The arrival of COVID-19 offered an opportunity to pilot this approach with Care in the Community, a collaborative care model for positive COVID-19 patients to be monitored and consulted from their own homes.
In December 2020, Care in the Community successfully supported ten positive COVID-19 cases linked to the Berala cluster. Patients were triaged through the hospital and connected to local General Practices, who provided them with coordinated, comprehensive care from the comfort of their own homes, easing the challenges associated with enforced isolation.
Angela*, a 26-year-old woman from Western Sydney, was referred to the Care in the Community program, having tested positive for COVID-19 with mild to moderate symptoms. She was monitored from her home under the care of a General Practice Team using the CareMonitor application for 14 days. Each day, Angela completed self-assessment questionnaires and inputted her biometric data, such as her temperature. The GP team remotely monitored this information and followed up with the built-in messaging function. On day 11, the CareMonitor team noted a deterioration in Angela’s health, as evidenced from her symptom scores, and organised a video consultation with a doctor at the practice. Fortunately, Angela indicated no signs of respiratory distress, but the team recommended an additional COVID test. Angela’s results were still positive for COVID-19, but lab investigations showed that the cells were dead and that she was no longer contagious. Doctors reassured Angela that her symptoms were the result of post-infection fatigue. After completing her 14-day isolation period, Angela returned to everyday life grateful for the support she had received.
Dr Walid Jammal, GP at Hills Family General Practice, and involved in the Care in the Community program, said, “From the moment the COVID cases were confirmed, our local hospitals worked strategically alongside selected local general practices, like ours, who are equipped to deal with this particular scenario. I don’t believe anyone likes to be in hospital, and this initiative allows us to provide care in an environment that gives patients added comfort and convenience without compromising the level of care”.
Ray Messom, CEO at WentWest, the Western Sydney Primary Health Network, said, “With Western Sydney home to four public hospitals, seven community health centres and 350 general practices, this approach makes use of every aspect of our region’s existing facilities, taking a truly holistic view of the provision of primary care”.
The Berala cluster response demonstrated the effectiveness of primary healthcare in responding to appropriate health issues at a community level rather than an acute setting. Due to the success of the COVID Care in the Community model, WentWest and the WSLHD have their sights on applying this model to manage other chronic and acute care needs under NSW Health’s Collaborative Commissioning Program.
*Name has been changed to protect the identity of this client