Helping Aurora get better from the comfort of home

When three-year-old Aurora was experiencing severe vomiting during a heavy thunderstorm on the evening of Good Friday, the last thing her mum Fiona wanted to do was to have to drag her out of bed and drive her to hospital.

Thanks to an innovative virtual care program, Fiona was able to avoid a trip to the Emergency Department and get the help Aurora needed from the comfort of her own home.

Now this service will be available to even more families, with Premier Chris Minns announcing the expansion of the service to children across NSW at a press conference held at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead (CHW) on Sunday.

“This innovative model of care assesses children before they get to hospital to identify the best healthcare pathway for them, because, in many cases, that is not an emergency department,” Mr Minns said.

Health Minister, Ryan Park added: “This has significant benefits not just for families, who have reduced travel, wait times for care and hospital visits, but also for the frontline healthcare workers in our busy emergency departments.”

Initiated by NSW Health and led in partnership with Healthdirect, our Network and Hunter New England Kids Health, the virtualKIDS Urgent Care Service is designed to help keep children out of emergency departments and provide care closer to home.

Using video conferencing technology, the virtualKIDS Urgent Care Service connects families with a clinical nurse, to provide an assessment before they get to hospital and determine the best care pathway and care provider based on each child’s needs.

“Having a healthcare professional be able to see Aurora on a video call and walk us through the steps we could take while keeping her comfortable and a lot less stressed at home was really quite invaluable to help her get better,” Fiona said.

“I think it’s a really important service for children and their families, giving us more information when our children are sick – information that might avoid a hospital visit altogether.”

First established as a pilot, NSW Health invested over $4 million to set up, staff and operation the virtualKIDS Urgent Care Service. The pilot built on the success of the virtualKIDS program established by our Network in August 2021 to care for children virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Joanne Ging, Director of Clinical Operations at our Network, said: “The service has helped transform the care we are able to provide to our children and families by giving them an avenue to access trusted support from nurses or paediatricians or by primary care services from the comfort of their own homes.”

“The results have been fantastic, with two out of three kids accessing the service receiving the care they needed without having to go to an emergency department, and we are excited to see its expansion to families statewide.”

The statewide rollout will help ensure that by the end of this year, children and families can access the right care, at the right time and in the right place, no matter where they are located in NSW.

The expansion of the service will also see it provide specialist paediatric advice to clinicians in rural and regional hospitals, and to paramedics in non-emergency situations.