EXPLAINED: What is the Ambulatory Care Centre?
ALL the local TV stations as well as print media - old and new - were in attendance for the opening of the new $17.5 million Ambulatory Care Centre at Grafton Base Hospital.
Northern NSW Local Health District chief executive Wayne Jones, NNSWLHD board manager Dr Allan Tyson, Clarence Health Services general manager Dan Madden and NSW Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis were all in attendance, while Minister for Health Brad Hazzard was a notable absentee due to COVID-19 restrictions.
So it must be a big deal, right?
But if you're not a frequent visitor, you may not be familiar with the term 'ambulatory care'.
So what is it?
Firstly, it's not the drop off point for the ambulance. That was and remains the emergency department.
Ambulatory care, or outpatient care, is medical care provided for outpatients - people who visit the hospital for services such as diagnosis, observation, consultation, treatment, intervention and rehabilitation, but do not require being admitted overnight.
This is opposed to inpatients, who are those who visit the emergency department or are pre-booked for surgery.
Even if you've been previously admitted to the hospital as an inpatient, once you're discharged, you're then classified as an outpatient.
So it makes sense that ambulatory care covers a wide range of hospital functions, right?
It most certainly does.
The state-of-the-art two-storey building located at the front of the hospital along Arthur St houses a whole range of out-patient services previously scattered across the hospital campus including in several older buildings slated for demolition in the medium term future as part of the $263.8 million upgrade promised by the NSW Government.
The services housed in the Ambulatory Care Centre include:
• oncology, chemotherapy and Haematology services;
• renal dialysis unit;
• occupational therapy
• speech pathology;
• fracture and osteo-fracture clinics;
• dietetics and nutrition outpatient clinics;
• occupational therapy outpatient clinics;
• outpatient clinics for patients with chronic conditions including cardiac and respiratory rehabilitation services, diabetes education and diabetes foot clinics.
Surely that's a lot of services lumped into one building, right?
Clarence Health Services general manager Dan Madden provides a description of what's inside the new Ambulatory Care Centre.
"As the name suggests it is a centre for ambulatory patients, that is walk-in patients, non-admitted patients," Mr Madden said.
"As you enter from the main pedestrian entrance at the hospital you enter into the physiotherapy area.
"Physiotherapy is a really big outpatient enterprise here at the hospital and formerly they were in really small, archaic, cramped conditions, so this is much better.
"At the far of the ward on the ground floor is the renal dialysis unit.
"It was up on the third floor of the main ward block, so access for patients was awkward, they had to navigate their way all through the hospital, and those were patients who are having treatments three times a week typically.
"So to have them in bright and modern spacious surroundings is wonderful.
"As you go up, the floor plans are roughly similar on the second floor, but on top of physio as you walk into the building is the full range of allied health services. That's everything from speech therapy, to dietetics, diabetes, occupational therapy, our chronic disease program is run from up there, and others.
"At the far end of the ward, on top of the renal area, is the oncology and haematology area.
"There's some consult rooms up there. We have visiting oncology and haematology specialists coming from Lismore, so those consults will happen there. But the actual chemotherapy treatment - and non-cancer treatments happen there too."