News Archive: Jul 2015
Truck docs make healthy house calls
A KENWORTH truck and trailer fitted out with medical equipment and staffed by specialists is saving lives in the bush.
The 25m Heart of the Nation truck and trailer is equipped with two clinics and a dazzling array of lifesaving equipment.
In the bush where people are 44 per cent more likely to die from heart disease, it could just as well be called the Heart Starter.
Heart of the Nation is staffed by a specialist team of cardiologists and respiratory specialists on a rotating basis.
Since October last year they have saved the lives of 48 people who otherwise would have almost certainly died.
Queensland Senator Barry O’Sullivan, in Winton earlier this month where Heart of the Nation staff were treating patients, said it was the start of a major revolution in the
delivery of medicine to the bush.
“This first truck carries staff delivering cardiac and respiratory care,” he said.
“Once upon a time governments had the excuse that the diagnostic equipment was too big to move around. They can’t use that argument anymore. This truck here pulled up by the side of the road has modern equipment in it that saves lives.”
“There are no excuses now for governments not to fund what is now this pioneering de- livery of medicine. This is where the rubber meets the road.”
Cardiologist and the man who pioneered Heart of the Nation in October last year, Dr Rolf Gomes, said that bringing the revolutionary health service to the people of the bush was an uplifting experience.
He said he wanted to see the service expand to where it provided a lot more specialist services.
“Knowing you have saved lives because the people have come to the truck is uplifting. People have had stents and surgery and their lives have been saved because they came to the truck,” he said.
“I can do more with the equipment we have in the truck than I can do in my Brisbane practice.”
The Assistant Minister for Health, Senator Fiona Nash, who also visited Winton, said the mobile clinic would bring quality cardiac and respiratory care to the people of rural and outback Queensland.
Senator Nash said the Federal Government had provided $250,000 to fit out the truck. Queensland Government and Arrow Energy also funded it.
IT started with an idea to provide cardiology diagnosis to remote and rural Australia. Now the Heart of Australia truck brings specialist cardiology services to rural communities on a 25 meter-long, custom-designed clinic-on-wheels, driven by a Kenworth K200 prime mover.
The purpose-built, self-sufficient trailer provides two private clinic rooms, a testing room and a reception area for patients. It is wheelchair accessible and fully air-conditioned.
The Australian-first cardiology Clinic on Wheels program was launched late last year and has treated more than 1200 people so far.
The Heart of Australia program founder Dr Rolf Gomes said the service had also saved dozens of lives.
“Close to 50 patients with potentially life-threatening conditions have been identified and successfully treated,” he said.
“So it’s providing a very definite health benefit out in areas where these services are non-existent.”
Dr Gomes told the North Queensland Register he had immigrated to Australia as a child and had received every chance he could hope for in being able to better himself.
After becoming a cardiologist, he decided give something back to the country that he said had given him so much.
He approached Senator Barry O’Sullivan with the idea for a cardiac truck in the hope of attracting some government assistance.
With the support of Senator Fiona Nash, they were successful in obtaining $500,000 to buy and set up the Heart of Australia truck.
Dr Gomes provides the operating costs and his services as a cardiologist.
You only have to look at the statistics to see what a great benefit this truck has already had, and what an incredible service it is for rural and remote Australia.
To date, visiting the facility has pre- vented a possible 16 deaths; 93 people have either avoided hospitalisation or had reduced stays in hospital; there has been an average of 513km travel per patient visit saved; 237 people required ongoing treatment; nine patients were referred for open-heart surgery; 40 others were referred for urgent procedures; 49 cases were identified as urgent; and there were 1126 episodes of care – all in 55 regional clinics.
“This is the most effective way of bringing medical services to the whole of regional Australia. In 50 years we will look back and recognise this as a pioneering model of health service delivery,” Mr O’Sullivan said.
Ms Nash said the federal government must assist this type of project with funding.
“We need to think outside the square, and this project does just that and it can be adapted to all levels of health,” she said.
Winton Shire Councillor Bruce Mann said having the service delivered to outback towns took away a lot of the anxiety for older people, who would normally have to travel great distances and pay big dollars to access the service in the coastal cities.