Werribee Mercy Hospital is piloting a unique tool which helps to provide more timely care for pregnant and postpartum women.

In March, the Obstetric Triage Decision Aid was launched in a pilot program at Werribee Mercy’s Emergency Department (ED) and the Maternity Assessment Unit (MAU).

Funded by Better Care Victoria, the aid – an Australian first – was developed by the Mercy Hospital for Women Emergency Department.

Midwife-nurse unit manager of the Mercy Hospital for Women ED, Mary McCarthy, led the project.

Ms McCarthy said the aim of the tool was to improve health outcomes for mothers and babies who required emergency care.

“Basically what we’re doing is working out who is urgent and how quickly they need to be seen, to reduce the clinical risk to mothers and their babies,” Ms McCarthy says.

She said that hospitals traditionally used the Australasian Triage Scale to assess everyone who presented at an ED, but that this scale did not always reflect the urgency with which a pregnant, or recently pregnant woman, needed to be seen.

“Anyone presenting to an ED is triaged on arrival by a trained triage nurse, who will assess the patient’s condition and allocate them with a triage score to determine their level of acuity, which in turn, will determine how quickly they need to be seen.

“However, the application of ATS (Australian Triage Scale) for pregnant or postpartum women has limitations and may not reflect the urgency of an obstetric condition, and this highlighted an area for improvement.”

She said Werribee Mercy had embedded the Obstetric Triage Decision Aid in its ED patient management software, as an additional tool to support triage nurses to accurately identify obstetric-related symptoms and risks.

“Pregnant or postpartum women are asked a series of targeted questions based on their presenting complaint and a triage score is allocated based on the response,” Ms McCarthy said.

“The triage score then suggests how quickly the women need to be seen by a health professional.”

Ms McCarthy said she hoped to eventually make the obstetric triage aid available to emergency departments and maternity services across the state.

Ms McCarthy said the Werribee Mercy MAU monitored women who were more than 20 weeks pregnant and experiencing pregnancy-related concerns.

The MAU sees about 8500 patients each year.

“In the MAU, the Obstetric Triage Decision Aid is a new tool where a new software application has been developed to support the assessment and triage of pregnant and postpartum women,” Ms McCarthy said.

She said before the Obstetric Triage Decision Aid was introduced at the MAU, 43 per cent of women were triaged within 15 minutes.

As of September this year, 73 per cent of women were triaged within 15 minutes, thanks to the new triage tool. “We are very pleased with these results,” Ms McCarthy said.