THE Wonthaggi Hospital is on its way to becoming a sub-regional hospital and following a Board Open Access meeting last Thursday, there are high hopes it’ll reach that status within 12 months.
A master plan for a new Emergency Department is expected to be drafted soon, as the hospital’s executives interview consultants this week.
At the recent Board Open Access meeting, the community was given a real sense of what’s to come and what’s already been delivered at Bass Coast Health’s Wonthaggi Hospital.
It’s already halfway to becoming a sub-regional hospital, with upgrades allowing patients to access the same neurologists as patients in Melbourne.
Wonthaggi is taking part in the Stroke Telemedicine Project, essentially a way to connect neurologists anywhere in Australia with nurses and patients in Wonthaggi via a video-link, similar to Skype.
Neurologists can view brain scans and give a professional diagnosis over the internet.
Professor Chris Bladin, one of the leading people behind the project, said it’s taken five years to get the project running successfully.
The project, when rolled out elsewhere, has seen a 30 per cent decrease in treatment times for patients.
“We’re not only focussed on the good outcomes, we’re also very much focussed on patient safety and the drugs that we use for treating a stroke.
“Some of them do have risks and we know that if we choose drugs very carefully and use them under the right circumstances, that really reduces the risk of bleeding complications,” he said.
There’s been a 60 per cent decrease in bleeding complications at hospitals using the service and the number of patients who are being treated within 60 minutes has increased 130 per cent.
Neurologists can talk to nurses and patients from anywhere, as long as they have a laptop and internet connection.
Professor Bladin’s goal is to see no stroke untreated in Australia and while the project is only rolled out in Victoria, he and his colleagues want to see it used nationally.
Wonthaggi is the last Victorian hospital to be involved in the program.
The 1000th patient of the program was 15-year-old Caitlyn Liersch from Moama, near Echuca, who had a stroke.
“She came to hospital, we treated her urgently and arranged transport to Melbourne and again, here she is after the stroke and she’s back home and looking fantastic,” said Professor Bladin.
“Without this program, this poor girl would’ve been left with a severe disability.”
New radiation therapy
Brachytherapy can stop cancers growing from the inside out and the team behind it are planning to bring it to Bass Coast Health.
Consultant radiation oncologist Dr Louise Nardone sees about 50 patients a day at the Alfred Health Radiation Oncology Unit.
She says they’re very close to being able to begin Brachytherapy.
Using prostate cancer as an example, Dr Nardone said they inject a small radiation source, similar to a tube, into the prostate and it them emits radiation from inside the body.
The radiation only spreads a few millimetres, but it’s not recommended men be too close to pregnant women, and avoid having children on their lap.
The radiation source tube is an alternative to having beams of radiation hitting the body.
“The survival rates for prostate cancer in Victoria are the worst in Gippsland, and this is why we’re bringing this treatment to Gippsland,” Dr Nardone said.
Gippsland patients are also twice as likely to receive non-curative treatment for prostate cancer.
“So there’s all sorts of reasons that we’re speculating but one is access to curative treatment, being Brachytherapy, surgery and external being radiotherapy or curative treatments for prostate cancer.
“I think we’re just a signature and some paperwork away, it’s imminent that we’re going to be doing our first implant at either Bairnsdale, Latrobe Hospital or here in the Bass Coast.”
Wonthaggi’s sub-regional hospital
Wonthaggi hospital is planning to gain sub-regional status and by sharing personnel and resources with other hospitals and local medical groups, there are hopes to have it reclassified within 12 months.
It paves the way for a strict timeline but executive director of medical services at Bass Coast Health, Associate Professor Bruce Waxman, said the hospital’s working to create more partnerships.
He said the partnerships with other medical services allows the hospital to maintain its level of clinical services, treat more patients, provide more services and provide care to complex patients.
Chairman of Bass Coast Health, Don Paproth, began the Board Open Access meeting by saying it wasn’t going to be a session about poor finances, nor a session asking everyone to “bear with us”.
He delivered on his promise and the future for the hospital is looking bright under CEO Jan Child’s leadership, alongside dedicated staff, volunteers and board members.