New trial service offers Katherine residents and visitors After-Hours consultations with a doctor at no charge

Residents and visitors in postcode areas 0850 (Katherine township) and 0853 (Tindal) can now access a doctor After-Hours via phone or video.

This service is funded by the NT PHN to be free of charge and is available:

  • between 6pm - 8am ACST on weekdays
  • after 12pm Saturday
  • all day Sunday and Public Holidays.

The telehealth service is not intended as a substitute or replacement for a patient’s regular GP care. It is designed as a complementary service for times when the GP may not be accessible and people have urgent, but not life threatening, health needs. The service is only free of charge during the After-Hours times stated; if patients access the service outside of the After-Hours periods, they will be charged the regular service fee.

HealthNow, which is part of Telstra Health, is delivering the After-Hours telehealth service for an initial trial period to the end of June 2019. The trial is restricted to Katherine township and Tindal and has been developed in consultation with local stakeholders in these areas as a complementary service to support needs during the after-hours period. Patients calling from outside the trial area will be directed to the current services available to them.

Patients accessing the service will be triaged and if the service is appropriate a doctor will call them back, usually within 30 minutes. If the issue requires urgent care, the patients will be guided or supported to access the most relevant service. HealthNow works with local health service providers to ensure localised care pathways are understood and utilised by the service. Triage centre operators and doctors are all based in Australia and doctors can prescribe medication, issue medical certificates and give referrals. After the phone or video call appointment, the patient’s regular GP will be given details of what was discussed and actions taken.

Residents and visitors experiencing serious medical issues will be referred to hospital, and if any person is experiencing life-threatening injury or illness they should still ring 000.

During, and following the trial, the service will be evaluated and considered for future funding. Cultural appropriateness will be included in the evaluation scope, while GP credentialing and specific cultural training measures are identified in the contract requirements.

HealthNow Product Manager Sarah Williams explained, “Barriers such as distance, service hours, or limited mobility means that people living in rural and regional Australia consult their GP significantly less than the national average. With an estimated 2.2 million presentations to Emergency Departments per year that could be treated by a GP, providing access to healthcare advice After-Hours has the potential to reduce the burden on emergency health services for the Katherine region.”

This After-Hours doctor service has been made possible by funding from Northern Territory PHN (NT PHN). NT PHN Chief Executive Officer, Nicki Herriot, said, “We’re always working to help Territorians enjoy their best health and wellbeing. For the Katherine community, that means expanding access to health services After-Hours helping people receive the care they need in a timely way.” NT PHN also currently funds Wurli Wurlinjang Health Service to provide mobile and fixed base after-hours services to the area.

To access the After-Hours HealthNow service, call 1800 931 165 (toll-free). For more information, please visit the HealthNow website: www.healthnow.io/telehealth