Bringing health home: How CP@Clinic transforms care in rural Victoria

  • Community Paramedics Lauren Rudd and Alicia Turnbull undertake a health assessment as part of Gateway Health’s CP@Clinic.

Community Paramedics Lauren Rudd and Alicia Turnbull undertake a health assessment as part of Gateway Health’s CP@Clinic.

The convenience of a free health assessment is improving patient outcomes in communities that are disconnected from regular health care.

The CP@Clinic is a pilot program being run in North East Victoria by Gateway Health which provides valuable access to rural and remote communities. Developed in Canada by McMaster University, the program offers a free health assessment and screening of chronic health conditions by its community paramedics.

Proven to be highly successful overseas, the program reduces ambulance call outs and emergency department presentations by helping individuals navigate the health system and providing health promotion, education and improving general well-being.

The CP@Clinic aims to create health goals with individuals and encourage them to attend multiple clinics to track their progress and improve their overall health.

As one of the largest regional community health service providers in Victoria, covering a catchment of more than 170,000 people across 15 local government areas, the place-based approach of the CP@Clinic program provides Gateway Health with a vehicle to engage harder to reach communities.

Community Paramedics Lauren Rudd and Alicia Turnbull bring a combined 26 years' experience in emergency paramedicine to the program. It is a new and innovative role for paramedics, building on the unique skills gained in the pre-hospital environment and applying them in a way that promotes the health of the community. 

Lauren said volunteers and community leaders had been a driving force in the successful implementation of the program as the CP@Clinic team works to establish a trusting relationship with the community.

"We have set up each clinic by piggybacking on local programs where clients who may benefit from the service are already attending," Lauren said.

"The feedback from the clinics has been overwhelmingly positive with the attendance of each of the clinics increasing over time.

"We have had large numbers of enthusiastic clients that are glad to have a convenient and cost-free health assessment come to them."

Each community requires a tailored approach with health issues varying vastly from town to town. Common among them are undiagnosed hypertension, poor diabetes management, social isolation, elevated BMI, poor diet, lack of access and financial barriers to GPs and allied health services.

"From our perspective as health professionals, there have been numerous undiagnosed health conditions identified in clients that would be otherwise unaware due to their disconnection from the health care system,” Alicia said.

"We have also made referrals into the health system for individuals who would otherwise be unable to navigate the complex healthcare system themselves."

The CP@Clinic is being run in conjunction with Sunraysia Community Health, Primary Care Connect and Northern Districts Community Health and supported locally by a grant from the La Trobe University Violet Vines Marshman Centre for Rural Health.

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