After Hours Phone Triage

The after-hours telephone support service was established in the 1990s to support patients and caregivers who are clients of the following community palliative care services:  

  • Eastern Palliative Care (Eastern Metropolitan Melbourne);
  • Hume Regional Health (Albury/Wodonga; Moira Numurkah; Benalla; Wangaratta; Lower Hume);
  • Barwon and South West Health (Bellarine, Geelong, Colac, Warrnambool, Hamilton, Portland and surrounding areas);
  • Banksia (Banyule, Nillumbik; Whittlesea).

The service operates Monday to Friday from 4:30pm to 7:15am and for 24 hours a day over weekends and public holidays. It is staffed by senior palliative care nurses. Contact information for the after-hours service will be given to the patient by their palliative care service at the time of admission to that service. 

The service is accessed by patients and caregivers via a paging service where they will be asked to identify the area they are calling from, the name of the patient, a contact phone number and a brief message about the issue. Once a telephone page has been received the palliative care nurse will call back within 15 minutes. This ensures that the nurse has time to collect all relevant information relating to the patient prior to making the call.

The After Hours Palliative Service Can

  • Assess your problems from a nursing perspective
  • Provide advice, education and support
  • Advise you how to manage symptoms using your medications and other techniques
  • Guide you through administering medications over the phone
  • Liaise with doctors or a palliative care/community nurse over the phone
  • Arrange a nurse to visit you to provide an urgent assessment, support or administer medications
  • Advise you when you need to see a doctor urgently or when this can wait until the next day
  • Advise you what to do in an emergency, or where death is imminent.
  • Advise what to do or organise a nurse to visit where death has occurred
  • Provide information about business hours services to seek out
  • Direct you to good quality Australian or Victorian websites and helplines
  • Just listen and be there

The After Hours Palliative Service Cannot

  • Make a medical diagnosis or prognosis
  • Advise you to use medication or doses not prescribed by your doctors
  • Arrange a nurse to visit if the situation is not urgent, where medications are not available in the home for them to use or if there is no nurse available to visit (remote locations or if there is a risk posed to the visiting nurse)
  • Arrange a hospice or hospital bed if one is not available at the time
  • Ring an ambulance for you
  • Be expected to have all the most up to date information about you.
  • Go against your wishes (unless you are asking for a nurse to visit where one is not available or this has been deemed unsuitable).