A nurse checks on a patient in the cancer ward

Departments

Victorian Respiratory Support Service

About us

The Victorian Respiratory Support Service (VRSS) is a statewide specialist program providing a range of services to adults with a chronic respiratory failure. These services currently include:

Outpatient assessment

Assessment of new referrals of ambulatory patients to determine whether implementation of ventilation is appropriate and the timing of initiation of ventilation. This includes; physician assessment, complex respiratory function, and complex sleep studies.

Inpatient specialist clinical services (statewide)

  • Assessment and initiation of ventilation for in-patients with complex needs (including assessment through sleep studies)
  • Discharge planning and preparatory training in ventilator use for patients, families and carers

Direct services to support ventilator dependent people living in the community

  • Ventilator Supply and Equipment maintenance
  • Preliminary and ongoing training for ventilator users, families and carers
  • Monitoring patient safety and the use of ventilatory equipment provided
  • Home visits by nursing outreach staff to provide consultation about machine/user interface problems, specific maintenance tasks (eg tracheostomy support) and general oversight of health status of the ventilator user.
  • Outpatient clinics (at Austin Health - Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital and Calvary Health Care -Bethlehem Hospital) to monitor health issues for ventilator users discharged from Austin Health and for ventilator-dependent patients at Bethlehem Hospital.
  • Emergency back-up and support in case of ventilator failure.

Mission statement

A statewide service providing expert comprehensive care to individuls who require ongoing ventilatory support. The service utilizes best practice guidelines and fosters research and education in the area of chronic ventilatory failure.

Medical services

The VRSS medical staff are involved in assessment, intiation, monitoring and providing back up support for people requiring home ventilation. People requiring home ventilation may be assesed intially in a hospital or clinic after referral by their treating doctor. Clinics are operated at Austin Hospital, Bethlehem Healthcare and Bundoora Extended Care centre, with home visits to the Ventilator Accommodation Support Service in Thornbury. In addition to consultations, arterial blood tests and breathing tests are usually performed to determine whether home ventilation would be an appropriate treatment.

Assessment for other services and intiation of ventilation is then organised at the Austin Hospital by the VRSS team.

As the Victorian State Service and National leaders in home ventilation, VRSS staff are actively involved inn research optimising the methods for delivering this support. They also provide consultative advice both within Victoria and nationally.

Physiotherapy

The Victorian Respiratory Support Service (VRSS) has two physiotherapists working within its multidisciplinary team. The role of physiotherapy within the unit can broadly be split into two different areas: sleep medicine and the treatment of acute patient needs.

The VRSS physiotherpist reviews patients sleep studies with medical staff, and commences patients on ventilators to help with their breathing overnight. Normally this involves setting up a patient on non-invasive ventilation (NIV) or mask ventilation.

When a VRSS patient is admitted to Austin Health, physiotherapists are also involved in assessing and treating any acute health issues that are amenable to physiotherapy.

Social work

VRSS patients and their families and supports have access to two part time social workers, both while they are in hospital and once they have been discharged.

It is acknowledged that a serious illness requiring the use of life support machines such as a ventilator will have an effect not only on the patient but others involved in their care.

The VRSS social workers can assist with practical advice, and also with the emotional stresses of dealing with a lift threatening illness/disease.

The social workers can also assist the patient/family to negotiate external community resources, Centrelink, the Department of Community Services and any other health services.

Occupational therapy

The VRSS occupational therapist provides assessment and treatment for clients requiring ventilatory support via tracheostomy or nasal ventilation.

Diagnostic Groups include: Post-Poliomyelitis, Motor Neurone Disease, Muscular Dystrophy, Restrictive Lung Disease, and Sleep Apnoea.

Occupational Therapy interventions

  • Provision and design of adapted equipment /appliances
  • Assistance with ADLs
  • Enhancement of life skills and access to community resources 
  • Access to electronic assistive technologies
  • Manufacture and follow up of customised nasal masks
  • Discharge planning, home visits and follow up of clients on home ventilation program
  • Emotional support for clients, families and carers.

VRSS Outreach Service

The VRSS Outreach Service is a small team incorporating clinical nurse consultants, receptionists and a biomedical engineer.

Its role is to:

  • Work in partnership within the VRSS multidisciplinary team in preparing the client for discharge from hospital
  • Provide discharge education to the client, family and other carers
  • Provide ongoing phone support
  • Review clients in the home for mask or ventilator issues
  • Care for Tracheostomy tubes of clients with ventilators
  • Care for Gastrostomy tubes of clients with ventilators (in partnership with other agencies)
  • Provide support and equipment for clients using Diaphragm Pacing
  • Attend weekly outpatient clinic at the Repatriation Campus
  • Attend regular satellite outpatient clinics at Bethlehem, BECC, Frankston, Bendigo and Geelong Hospitals
  • Manage the purchase and supply of all ventilator equipment needed for care at home
  • Service / performance test all ventilators annually
  • Repair broken equipment