Heart of Australia Founder and cardiologist Dr Rolf Gomes.
Heart of Australia Founder and cardiologist Dr Rolf Gomes.

Medical service has saved over 300 lives in southwest

THREE months ago, Anthony Beattie had a life-altering check up that resulted in the open heart surgery that saved his life.

Without that check-up with Heart of Australia's Dr Rolf Gomes, Mr Beattie might not have been here to tell the tale of how his life changed on that day three months ago.

The lifesaving mobile medical service Heart of Australia is now celebrating 1500 clinics and more than 8000 appointments around regional Queensland, and hundreds of lives saved in that time.

Dr Gomes said the clinic started only as a dream when he was just a junior doctor, but he instantly experienced support for the initiative like nothing he could have imagined.

"The individual stories like Anthony's are what makes Heart of Australia so special and highlights how we can mobilise medicine for those in rural, regional and remote areas of Australia," Dr Gomes said.

"What started as a dream, supported by a small band of people who took a chance in 2014, has flourished into a model of mobile medical service delivery that is demonstrated to perform, and is ready to scale.

"We measure our impact in terms of lives saved, and quality of lives improved. It gives our team so much pleasure to see the progress made by returning patients, knowing our intervention has helped that person's quality of life."

Mr Beattie is just one patient who has Dr Gomes and his initiative to thank for saving his life.

His wife Carolyn said without the service, she may have lost her husband much sooner than she could have imagined.

"A reminder call from Heart of Australia prompted Anthony to get a 2-yearly check up on the Heart Truck," she said.

"During the check up Dr Gomes detected a significant cardiac issue that resulted in Anthony undergoing an emergency triple bypass.

"If it wasn't for this wonderful service, we could quite easily have lost him."

Since Heart of Australia's first truck hit the road six years ago, Heart of Australia has helped save 350 lives out of 8000 appointments during 1500 clinics.

As a junior doctor and relatively new to the field when Heart of Australia started six years ago, Dr Gomes was inspired by his time spent in the southwest.

The non-existence of specialist medical services out west was something that astounded the young doctor, and something he felt an intense need to change.

"I saw people who either had to travel hundreds of kilometres on their GP's recommendation for a specialist diagnosis or trust to luck that nothing was seriously wrong with them," he said.

"This option is one of the core reasons that country people have a higher rate of death than their city counterparts, and it drove me to think what I could do to address this inequity."

With support from foundation partner Arrow Energy, Dr Gomes was able to make his dream a reality.

Arrow Energy CEO Cecile Wake said the decision to offer their support to Dr Gomes was an easy one.

"I offer my heartiest congratulations to Dr Gomes and the Heart of Australia team," she said.

"With permanent groups of staff in Dalby and Moranbah, Arrow understood the value of Dr Gomes' idea right from the start.

"We know our country staff should have the same level of care as our Brisbane staff, and this goes for the wider community as well.

"Helping to create Heart of Australia stands as a great achievement in our company's history. It gives me great satisfaction to see it going from strength to strength, for the benefit of country Queenslanders."

Starting as a mobile cardiology and respiratory medicine service, Heart of Australia has added services in endocrinology, gastroenterology, gynaecology, neurology, geriatrics, and sleep.

It is now supported by over a dozen partners, including the Queensland and federal governments.

It has three trucks, travelling to 22 centres. A fourth truck will be added by the end of this year, and a fifth by mid-2021.

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