When you’re newly pregnant and think something might be wrong, you want to talk to someone who knows their stuff ASAP. Now you can, thanks to SA’s new Virtual Women’s Assessment Service.
The Virtual Women’s Assessment Service is a new online service run by the Women’s and Children’s Health Network (WCHN). It provides fast, free, expert assistance for women who are less than 20 weeks pregnant and experiencing symptoms of possible pregnancy loss, nausea or vomiting, as well as women experiencing other gynaecological issues.
We talk to Charlotte Groves, Acting Midwifery Unit Manager, Women’s Assessment Service, WCHN, about why this service is needed, and how people can access it.
People don’t realise just how many women and families are affected by miscarriage or early pregnancy bleeding. The Australian miscarriage rate is around one in four pregnancies, and 85 per cent of those miscarriages happen during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Charlotte says that 20-25 per cent of women experience bleeding during early pregnancy. While that has many causes, it can be very traumatising for women.
“The greatest fear for everyone when they have bleeding or pain in early pregnancy is that this is going to end in miscarriage,” Charlotte says. “It’s a time of concern and uncertainty for women and having to be in a maternity hospital waiting to see someone about it can sometimes be really triggering.
“The new virtual service provides an alternate route to receive care without having that additional trauma. We want to offer something unique and specific for their needs. The women can talk to us in their own private, comfortable setting.”
The Virtual Women’s Assessment Service is what women want
Charlotte says the new women’s service was inspired by the WCHN’s Child and Adolescent Virtual Urgent Care Service (CAVUCS), which has already provided advice to more than 30,000 children and their caregivers. A doctor answers all your questions about CAVUCS here.
It’s also what women want: “A lot of women said that they wanted something more timely, something more individualised for their care,” says Charlotte.
“We thought this was a great option for them, particularly with a lot of women having a lot going on in their lives with work, other family or children that they’re caring for. This means that they could access healthcare, promptly, from the comfort of their own home.”
Around 80 per cent of women accessing the service are able to avoid the hospital emergency department. Instead, Charlotte says follow up is usually done as an outpatient or in the community, and could involve organising an ultrasound or blood test, reviewing their care plan or sending a script to their local pharmacy.
How can people access the service?
- Head to the Women’s and Children’s Hospital website using your preferred device (mobile, tablet, desktop or laptop) or call (08) 8161 7530 to be sent a link to access the service;
- Click on ‘Do you have an emergency?’, followed by the Virtual Women’s Assessment Service link;
- Click ‘Access the Virtual Women’s Assessment Service here’
- Fill out the form (you’ll need your Medicare card handy), submit, then wait to be connected – it shouldn’t take long.
It’s great news for women in regional SA, too
Importantly, the new virtual service also provides regional South Australian women with convenient access to experienced midwives without having to make a long trip to Adelaide.
“This service means they can stay in their community and receive the same advice and care that we give to people in a city, but we can then link them back into services within their own community, whether that’s an ultrasound facility nearby, or contacting a local doctor that we need to communicate with to organise a care plan for them,” Charlotte says.
More upsides of the service
The average time from logging on to logging off the service is 69 minutes, and that includes a comprehensive consultation with a midwife (and doctor if needed), so the wait time is seriously short.
Clinical Midwife Olivia Weymouth, who works in the new service, says one of its great advantages is the ability for people from other locations to be looped in. That means women can include their partner or relative in the video consultation even if they’re not physically with them.
It also means an interpreter or Aboriginal liaison officer can be on hand if needed, so the service is available to SA women from every cultural and linguistic background. And it’s free for everyone with a Medicare card.
Then there’s the big plus of continuity of care, since the same midwife follows up the initial consultation with check-up phone calls and test result explanations. And the service allows time for some counselling and education so the women know what signs and symptoms to look out for in future.
If in doubt – call a midwife!
Olivia says that women know their bodies best, but sometimes don’t seek help when they feel something’s wrong because they don’t want to “be a bother”, or put more stress on the healthcare system.
“We’re encouraging those women to access our service,” she says. “We don’t want women sitting at home stressed and anxious about what’s going on with their bodies. We’re here to support them. If the best outcome is that everything’s fine, that’s what we would love to hear from them. And if something’s not fine then we’re here to support them through that process.”
Charlotte adds: “Alleviating women’s anxiety about whether something is wrong is why we’ve created the service. If you’re not sure whether you need to come into the hospital, now you can just jump onto a quick video call with a midwife to talk through your symptoms and see whether you need any tests or investigations.”
Find more information and access the Virtual Women’s Assessment Service here or call (08) 8161 7530.
Discover more about how virtual health care is keeping South Australians of all ages out of hospitals here.