20 June 2016

Emergency Telehealth Service a life saver

Emergency Telehealth patient Michael Murphy
Emergency Telehealth patient Michael Murphy

For Perth resident Michael Murphy, who was holidaying in Lancelin with his family, a beach fishing expedition quickly became a day he would never forget. Just a few hours later he would be airlifted to Perth for emergency medical treatment.

Mr Murphy and his family were headed to the beach when they encountered a bogged vehicle. After providing their assistance he started to experience severe chest pains. His family took him to Silver Chain’s Lancelin Health Centre and not long after, Silver Chain’s registered nurse linked up with the Emergency Telehealth Service (ETS).

Introduced under the Southern Inland Health Initiative, the ETS enables doctors and nurses in country hospital emergency rooms to access highly trained, emergency medicine specialists based in Perth using video conferencing equipment.  

When Mr Murphy presented at the Lancelin Health Centre, he had significant chest pain and was clearly in need of emergency treatment.

Instead of local staff coordinating his transfer via ambulance to the nearest Perth hospital – 100km away – the Silver Chain nurse activated the ETS and was able to initiate emergency treatment under the guidance of an ETS doctor at the Perth headquarters in Wembley.

Dr Robert Graydon, Medical Director ETS, who leads the team of ETS doctors, said when dealing with any patient experiencing chest pain, a timely response is imperative to ensure limited damage to the heart. 

“Thanks to the ETS, a doctor could be present at the Lancelin Health Centre within seconds. We were then able to immediately recognise that Mr Murphy’s symptoms suggested an acute myocardial infarction or a heart attack,” Dr Graydon explained.

“The ETS doctor ordered for medication to be administered that would treat the symptoms of a heart attack by reestablishing the circulation of blood to the heart. This can only be administered on the order of a doctor familiar with this medication.”

Whilst the Silver Chain nurse continued the treatment plan on the ground, the ETS doctor arranged for Mr Murphy to be airlifted by helicopter from Lancelin to Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital and fast tracked straight to the cardiac catheter laboratory.  

“We were able to coordinate Mr Muphy’s transfer by helicopter. This was a great outcome as he was taken directly to the hospital that was best placed to treat his condition. Road ambulance transfer would have meant transfer to the closest hospital, not the hospital best equipped to deal with his condition,” Dr Graydon said. 

“I was trying to stay calm so I didn’t panic but I really didn’t know what was happening. It was a scary situation. The nurse on the ground was absolutely marvelous as was the ETS doctor based in Perth,” Mr Murphy said.

“After heart surgery in Perth, I’m now on the road to recovery. If it wasn’t for ETS, everything could be very different though. I’m sure I would have made it to hospital but the damage to my heart could have been much greater.”

The Emergency Telehealth Service is delivered by the WA Country Health Service and made possible by the State Government’s Royalties for Regions.

The service is available in 74 hospital emergency departments and emergency care facilities across the state, including more than 50 in the Southern Inland Health Initiative catchment. The Lancelin ETS service is provided through a partnership between the WA Country Health Service and Silver Chain.

Listen to Michael Murphy talk about the experience (external site).