5 May 2020

No new COVID-19 cases in ACT, telehealth available to outpatients

| Dominic Giannini
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Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith has announced that outpatients can soon access telehealth services. Photo: Region Media.

No new cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in the ACT today (Wednesday, 22 April) and another person has made a full recovery, bringing the number of active cases in the territory down to eight.

One patient is in Canberra Hospital while the remainder are self-isolating at home with the help of ACT Health.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith has announced that outpatients will soon be able to use telehealth and video services to access their appointments to reduce further spread of the virus.

The service will initially be limited to Canberra Health Services’ outpatients before being expanded to include outpatients from Calvary Public Hospital in Bruce.

Ms Stephen-Smith said allowing patients to access healthcare from home will reduce their risk of exposure to the virus as the curve in the ACT continues to flatten and transmission rates drop.

“This is an important and necessary step to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community and to help hospitals and clinics keep their staff safe,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

“This service will also assist patients who may be self-isolating, in quarantine and those who are in high-risk groups, such as elderly and immune suppressed people, to continue to get the health care they need.

“Telehealth will complement the existing face-to-face appointments, not replace them. Of course, there is a continued need for some patients to be assessed and treated in-person.”

The online service is being run through HealthDirect Australia and meets security requirements under Australian privacy law, ACT Health Chief Information Officer Peter O’Halloran said.

“Patients join their appointment through an internet browser and are placed in a virtual waiting room before the clinician connects with them via video call,” Mr O’Halloran said.

“Health professionals can share documents including scans and x-rays during the consultation.

“People do not need to worry if they do not think the video telehealth option is for them … staff will work to find the best alternative such as a phone call, or where necessary, a physical appointment.”

Clinicians from Canberra Health Services will begin to use telehealth services from Monday, 27 April.

There have been three deaths and 93 recoveries from COVID-19 in the territory to date. The total number of cases in the ACT remains at 104, the second-lowest in Australia.

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“One patient is in Canberra Hospital while the remainder are self-isolating at home with the help of ACT Health.” This is great news! Why is the government wasting at least $23 million in taxpayer funds to build a pop-up hospital which is unlikely to ever have a patient? Surely the hospital’s car parking tower could have been temporarily transformed into a temporary hospital???

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