Rural telehealth services to assist patients 'enormously'
EXPANDED bush telehealth services are being hailed as possible saviours for rural hospitals, such as Moura or Eidsvold, at risk of closure.
Health Minister Lawrence Springborg would not reveal where the other four trial sites for the Rural Telehealth Service would be created this year but suggested the other sites would be set through engaging with health boards in those areas.
He said the service would transport remote patients into the most advanced hospitals in the state through technology.
Telehealth trials at Hervey Bay and Mackay have diagnosed hearing problems in newborn babies.
Specialists have interpreted x-rays taken at remote locations from thousands of kilometres away.
"What we want to do is support more of our local doctors and nurses in facilities such as Moura so they feel comfortable and competent in being able to respond to paediatric incidents, incidents where someone has broken an arm or a leg or a cardiac emergency," he said.
"It will actually assist enormously in our ability to keep our hospitals in places such as Moura.
"We have lot of rural hospitals that have a large number of beds (serviced on a very costly basis) that are not being used and city hospitals close to 100% occupancy.
"It leads to these sorts of responses where people talk about closures, it's not about closures, it's about keeping local hospitals open."
Mr Springborg said the previous investment in telehealth had centred around specialist appointments to reduce travelling time between rural towns and large regional centres or metropolitan services.
He said that was important but it was also about helping rural doctors feel confident in an emergency instead of flying someone out.
"If you can actually beam back to the emergency department that's in that local hospital and health area where they were likely to be admitted, say Rockhampton or even a bigger metropolitan hospital, then they will feel confident they are responding more capably to that particular emergency," he said.
"But it will also have benefits in other areas such as pre-admission appointments where an enormous amount of time is actually spent by the people actually travelling to see a specialist for five minutes only to actually to turn around and drive back home.
"It can overcome the tyranny of distance and actually support the retention of an emergency department and an inpatient facility in a place like Moura."