Health Minister Paul Lucas at Hervey Bay Hospital.
Health Minister Paul Lucas at Hervey Bay Hospital.

Lucas committed to fix hospitals

HEALTH Minister Paul Lucas ended a two-day inspection of health services on the Fraser Coast yesterday with a commitment to get the region’s two hospitals working together.

With the results of a clinical audit of Fraser Coast health services expected within six weeks, the minister was positively upbeat about the future treatment of patients in the region.

The powerful strides already taken were there to be seen in Hervey Bay Hospital’s intensive care unit where a new tele health service was unveiled.

“Today we have witnessed the 21st Century technology in action on the Fraser Coast,” he said after a mid-morning demonstration of the high-tech equipment linked Hervey Bay Hospital with the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.

Using a high-powered zoom lens at the end of a patient’s bed, a Brisbane-based specialist can now examine someone in Hervey Bay and help in the further treatment of the person.

The need to move patients to Brisbane for specialised treatment will be cut significantly through tele health.

The technology is also being used to link emergency and paediatric departments in Maryborough and Hervey Bay hospitals.

“The service has the potential to benefit about 500 ICU patients locally each year – almost 50 per cent of ICU admissions at Hervey Bay Hospital,” Mr Lucas said.

It also has the capacity to improve the skills of people working in the region in a way not available before.

“We can’t have a specialist on every street corner. This brings the specialist to the patient rather than the patient to the specialist.”

The zoom camera allows a consultant to examine a patient’s injuries or consider readings on nearby monitors and propose a course of treatment.

“It’s a consultation process that’s already informed by laboratory and X-ray results that are made available,” Dr Neil Widdicombe, onscreen, said from the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital yesterday.

“It provides colleagues with reassurance and support which may be an important factor in staff retention.”

Mr Lucas said Hervey Bay Hospital’s intensive care unit was also working closely with the Brisbane hospital to provide daily tele health ward rounds between the hospital and the RBWH’s specialist intensive care physicians.

Hervey Bay Hospital has undertaken video conference rounds for ICU patients with the RBWH since January.

Mr Lucas confirmed the future of Maryborough Hospital on Wednesday, saying there was no intention of closing it.

He announced a $250,000 upgrade of the hospital’s emergency department, a move that did not inspire Gerard O’Connell, president of the Fraser Coast Health Focus Group.

“It’s hardly a significant sum of money,” he aid.

“To say there is no intention to close it down is a little different to saying it’s not going to close down.”

Mr O’Connell renewed his call for a CT scanner to be funded for the hospital.

Mr Lucas said a “planning process to get the two hospitals working together” would shape the future of the health service here.

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