Innovative health program transforming emergency care in WA

12 April, 2016

A bold and innovative program is transforming emergency care and access to GPs in Western Australia's southern inland, linking in with the State-wide emergency telehealth services which are now helping in the treatment of more than 1,400 patients per month.

The Southern Inland Health Initiative Program Evaluation - Preliminary Key Findings report, released 10 April 2016 by Health Minister John Day and Regional Development Minister Terry Redman, shows the Southern Inland Health Initiative (SIHI) has made a significant impact since it was introduced in 2011-12.

"Attracting and retaining doctors in small regional towns can be challenging, however the report shows the incentives offered under the SIHI program are really making a difference," Day said.

"As of October 2015, there were 133 GPs available throughout the SIHI catchment, 37 per cent more than before the program began.  And more doctors are staying in country towns, up from 35 per cent staying for longer than four years in 2008, to 67 per cent in 2015.

"SIHI has transformed emergency medical care, both through the introduction of the Emergency Telehealth Service in 74 locations, including hospital emergency departments (EDs) State-wide, and more doctors in SIHI towns being available to fill ED rosters.

"As a result, a higher proportion of patients are now being seen by a doctor when attending EDs in SIHI hospitals - in the evening and at night, patients are two to 2.5 times more likely to be seen by a doctor than before SIHI was introduced."

Redman said the report showed the number of people returning to EDs for further treatment in SIHI hospitals had halved.  People were also getting back on their feet quicker and being discharged from hospital sooner due to better access to GPs and support services in the community.

"The personal stories of patients speak volumes about the positive impact of SIHI and the difference it is making in regional WA," Redman said.

"These preliminary findings are remarkable considering the relatively short timeframe since the SIHI program began and this augurs well for future improvements to the health of country residents in the SIHI catchment.

"This Royalties for Regions investment into SIHI is critical to support the development of sustainable regional communities in WA."

The report also highlights the promise of the State Government's $300 million infrastructure program currently underway to improve hospital and health service infrastructure in 37 towns across the Wheatbelt, Great Southern, Mid-West and South-West.

Fact File

  • Under the 2011-12 State Budget, more than $500 million was provided by the Royalties for Regions program to introduce SIHI
  • SIHI is the State's single biggest investment in regional health care in WA history and includes more than $300 million capital works program and a $200 million health workforce and health services improvement program
  • The SIHI catchment includes localities to the north and south-east of the metropolitan area and stretches from Kalbarri and Meekatharra in the north, to Laverton in the east, down to Esperance in the south-east
  • To view the report, visit