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Australia-first facility hailed as the future for convalescing patients

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Media release The Hon Dr Michael Wooldridge Minister for Health and Family Services

MW 46/97

16 May, 1997


The opening o f cardiac surgery discharge flats at the Austin and Repatriation Medical Centre in Melbourne was today welcomed as an exciting breakthrough in patient health care.

The Federal Minister for Health and Family Services, Dr Michael Wooldridge said the discharge flats were the first dedicated “step down” facility for cardiac patients in Australia, providing accommodation and appropriate medical care for patients too ill to return home following surgery but who did not need to occupy an acute hospital bed.

“Patients recovering from surgery in many instances do not need a $500-a-day hospital bed. They, need access to medical care and comfortable accommodation but they do not require 24- hour surveillance in a high-tech hospital bed,” Dr Wooldridge said.

“The facility at the Austin and Repatriation Medical Centre builds on the early discharge program already in place at the Austin which provided cardiac surgery patients in the metropolitan area with suitable accommodation in their convalescence.

“The Austin's discharge flats built on its campus now provides an ideal service for rural Victorians who have long distances to travel to hospital, making it possible for them to convalesce in comfort but with ready access to medical care.”

“The Austin and its surgical staff are to be congratulated for this initiative. I believe it was the surgical division at the hospital that initiated the development o f the flats after searching for ways in which aged and rural patients, and their families, coming to Melbourne for surgery could be accommodated.

The Commonwealth contributed $1.3 million towards the step down flats at the Austin and Repatriation Hospital project through its National Demonstration Hospitals program.

“If our health system is to be sustainable in the longer term, we have to move away from our over-reliance on hospitals and our under-reliance on alternative community care facilities,” Dr Wooldridge said.



“At a time when hospitals and governments are faced with constrained resources but are none the less conscious o f the need to maintain the high quality health services available to Australians, half-way hospital/hotel accommodation provides a sustainable, economically viable alternative for convalescing patients.

“These facilities free up vital acute hospitals beds for those who need them at the same time keeping a tab on hospital costs and tackling hospital waiting lists.

“Importantly, step down facilities also provide a better service for patients, offering them a welcome alternative to the clamour o f an acute hospital ward with a flat that gives them privacy and most o f the comforts o f home.

“The Commonwealth will be working with the states to ensure that health care standards and outcomes are not adversely affected as a result o f the development o f step-down facilities and other community care facilities,” he said.

Media contact: Bill Royce, Dr Wooldridge's office, 0412 137 699