Cardiology truck delivers vital outback services

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St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital helps deliver vital cardiac services to rural and regional areas of Queensland from the back of a 25m-long semi-trailer as part of the Heart of Australia program.

Our partnership with Heart of Australia began in 2010 when the founder Dr Rolf Gomes approached St Andrew’s about bringing specialist cardiac services to the bush on board a cardiology truck. In 2014, the wheels were set in motion and the Heart of Australia truck, nicknamed ‘the heart bus’, was launched.

The success of the program and the man who made it all happen is captured in ABC’s The Australian Story episode ‘The Heart Bus’, which airs tonight at 8pm (Monday, 18 July).

St Andrew’s is an official sponsor of this Australian-first program that takes capital-city levels of care to regional and remote parts of the state. The truck is fitted out with our state-of-the-art cardiology diagnostic equipment.

Our cardiologists support the service and fly out to work in the truck, providing diagnosis, treatment and follow-up for a range of cardiovascular and respiratory conditions on a rotating roster.

The custom-built $1.5 million Kenworth K200 prime mover features two private clinic rooms, a testing room and a reception area for patients. During its first 12 months of operation, the Heart of Australia saw 2500 patients and identified 76 urgent cases including 13 people who required open heart surgery. Some of these patients may not be here today had it not been for this service.

The truck currently visits communities in south-west Queensland and central-west Queensland with plans to expand in north-west Queensland.

Dr Rolf Gomes says the program proves that vital health check services can be made accessible to people living in the bush. “In less than one year of operation, we continue to be humbled by the amazing goodwill right across the 11 communities in the bush that can count on Heart of Australia to roll out specialist medical clinics on reliable fortnightly schedules, delivering services and infrastructure that were previously unavailable,” Dr Gomes said.

“Our rolling clinics have welcomed more than 2,000 patients, and best of all, we have identified, helped or referred at least 70 people across our service communities who presented with critical, life-threatening symptoms. Since the launch of the program we have visited over 100 towns and continue to be welcomed and supported by locals.”

According to the Heart Foundation, Australians living outside capital cities are 26 per cent more predisposed to cardiovascular disease than their city counterparts. Country people are also often disadvantaged by difficulty in accessing medical services – getting a heart health check and managing cardiovascular disease once diagnosed with it.

St Andrew’s continues to strengthen its partnership with Heart of Australia to ensure people in the country have access to this vital medical service.

This article first appeared on the St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital News website.

Watch the Australian Story on Dr Gomes work here.

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