A new after-hours medical service for the Warrnambool region could help take the pressure off the hospital's emergency department under a 12-month trial which starts next month.
A first for the region, the service will cover general practice, mental health and alcohol and other drug support.
The Western Region Alcohol and Drug Centre, incorporating Handbury Medical Suites, has received funding from Primary Heath Network Western Victoria to trial the evening service for 12 months from July 4.
WRAD operations manager Mark Powell said it was the first of its type in the Great South Coast region and would give people more options to access care.
"We have been concerned that not everyone can access services under the traditional business hours model," Mr Powell said.
"Over time we've had requests from people for appointments in the evening and are aware there is a group of people for which business hours appointments just aren't suitable.
"We are excited to see what demand we are able to service through this trial."
The service will be available on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 6pm to 8.30pm.
Mr Powell said it could potentially change the nature of how they deliver services.
"I'm not aware of anything similar in the Great South Coast region so it's an exciting opportunity to enhance access to services and improve clinical outcomes and to help people who are struggling with health-related problems," he said.
At this stage, existing WRAD staff will cover the evening sessions and provide its regular suite of alcohol and other drug interventions but also offer single-session services where a person may just want to talk about their current issues to work out their options.
WRAD will also offer group work for individuals and for families and friends affected by substance use as well as general medical practice services.
The service is also available across the region. "We're not restricting ourselves to an office-based model," Mr Powell said.
"We have developed skills using telehealth during COVID-19 so we can provide services to regional and rural areas.
"We're quite excited about being able to expand the accessibility of our services to a wider group of people."
Mr Powell said WRAD believed the service could ease pressure on emergency departments and other health-related services.
"If people can get access to services earlier this may offset more urgent emergency care later on. This trial is part of trying to create an accessible service for earlier intervention," he said.
He added that drug and alcohol related problems contribute significantly to acute hospital admissions and emergency department attendance.
"Anything that can be done to reduce the harms of substance use and promote earlier intervention is a positive step," Mr Powell said.
"Community-based programs that offer accessible services may help to reduce this burden on already over stretched health resources."
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