Queenslanders in rural and remote communities, battling the double whammy of seemingly-endless drought and shrinking local economies, have been promised that they are not about to lose the privately-backed service – the first in Australia – that gives them monthly “to-your-door” access to cardiac health specialists.
It’s the Heart of Australia program, launched a year ago by Brisbane-based cardiologist Dr Rolf Gomes in partnership with Arrow Energy, using a custom-made eighteen-wheeler road rig. With fully-equipped consulting and diagnostic equipment for monthly cardiac specialist clinics now in eleven bush towns, the service travels a regular 7,000km a month circuit.
That’s more than double the number of towns on the semi-trailer schedule when the service started.
Brisbane-based Dr Gomes told guests at a Heart of Australia first anniversary event that the travelling clinic teams were hearing more and more from patients that opportunities and businesses are leaving bush towns.
“As far as Heart of Australia is concerned, we’re not pulling up stumps, we’re not taking our bat and ball and going home… in fact, we’re coming to you and we’re looking forward to it, so put the kettle on!”
Dr Gomes said: “I’m convinced that what we are seeing is, indeed, a genuine game-changer in how specialist services will be delivered into the future.
“Our groundbreaking service has been welcomed; demand for our service continues to grow; and not a month goes past when I don’t get asked….when are you coming to our town?
“The reality is this: For Heart of Australia to be able to expand its reach and benefit more country Australians…..it needs the security of tangible government support.
“The most common question I encounter from patients and communities is whether government is helping Heart of Australia. In fact, so many people we meet in the bush assume we are a government- funded public service.
“I place on record that I am deeply grateful that just before our launch a year ago, the Queensland and Commonwealth Governments jointly provided Heart of Australia with a small but very helpful startup grant.
“There’s been nothing since…. but we continue to talk with both governments because…..and this is the key issue….our program is, in truth, a pseudo-public service but we are not duplicating or competing with public health agencies.
“Heart of Australia provides access to specialist health services that all Australians are entitled to …. and the cold financial reality is that our service saves the Canberra and Brisbane governments millions of dollars a year – by keeping people alive and out of hospital, by eliminating patients’ travel and accommodation costs away from their homes, by reducing time away from employment and by detecting and treating diseases early…. before costly complications set in.
“Even among the new high-tech citizens of today, there’s still a strong fair- go attitude – the belief that every citizen is entitled to a fair opportunity to benefit from everything our nation offers.
“After all is said and done, Heart of Australia, at its core, offers bush Australians a particularly important fair go and I believe communities have every right to ask their governments -are you supporting Heart of Australia and if not, why not?
“What is certain is that Heart of Australia is here to stay, but Governments …. if they are genuine about looking after people in the bush…. must do their part”.