Mobile Heart Clinic Refused Funding by Queensland Health

  • Queensland Health refuses to fund mobile cardiology clinic
  • Slap in the face for rural cardiac patients says Member for Gregory
  • Rural CVD patients more likely to die under current service model

The Queensland Government’s refusal to fund the Heart of Australia mobile cardiology clinic, as reported by the ABC yesterday, is a slap in the face for the people of rural Queensland, according to Member for Gregory Lachlan Millar MP.

The refusal coincided with the ABC’s broadcast last night of an edition of Australian Story devoted to the clinic and its founder Dr Rolf Gomes which drew overwhelmingly positive comment from viewers.

“Queensland Health justifies the refusal by saying it already provides cardiac services in over 40 rural and remote communities, but the gap in life expectancy for rural patients vs city patients shows that their model is not working,” said Mr Millar.

“The ABC reported yesterday that rural patients are 44 per cent more likely to die of heart disease than their city cousins, and in some remote areas that rises to over 60 per cent.

“We should not be comfortable looking at that gap. We should not be patting ourselves on the back and saying that continuing to do the same thing is to be doing enough,” he said.

“Queensland Health may say it is already delivering these services, but in most cases this involves the patients having to take time off work and losing earning capacity, to travel to Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane or to private providers in Brisbane. They bear the bulk of the travel cost themselves, even as a pensioner.”

Mr Millar said when rural patients arrive at the Brisbane hospital they frequently experience administrative snafus, particularly in the area of appointments for tests, which further increase the true cost and difficulty of receiving the health service.

“These are the underlying causes of the second-class outcomes for country Queenslanders. This is why they are diagnosed later and receive less treatment and minimal rehabilitation and education about managing their chronic disease. This is why they are dying younger,” said Mr Millar.

“People who live in Emerald in my electorate of Gregory do not consider themselves as living remotely. They are only a three hour drive from the coast, but the Heart of Australia bus has been revolutionary for CVD patients in Emerald.

“Imagine the difference it makes for my constituents even further west in Longreach, Tambo, Blackall, Barcaldine, Aramac, Muttaburra, Quilpie, Windorah and Jundah,” he said.

Mr Millar said the Heart of Australia Clinic has allowed rural patients the same quality of cardiac care available to patients in the south-east corner of Queensland without having to leave their homes, their jobs and their families.

“This is an innovative model which is really delivering results both in preventing mortality and in improving long term rehabilitation for rural patients. It removes the obstacles to timely diagnosis and good follow-up care.

“Yet again, we see Queensland Health placing obstacles in the way of any new model that has positive outcomes for country Queenslanders. Rev. John Flynn must be looking down on us in disgust,” he said.

Mr Millar said it was ironic that on the same day Queensland Health announced it would not fund the program, the Australian Health Tracker for 2016 was released showing that cardiovascular disease is still the top killer.

“When I went to the National Heart web page to look at the statistics for my constituents, I found a 2014 map of Queensland with a big grey splodge covering all of the state except the coastal strip. The grey area is the vast bulk of the state and is marked “Queensland Outback – no data available”. You could find no better illustration of the attitude of a city-centric health hierarchy. Co-incidentally 2014 is when Heart of Australia began,” he said.

Mr Millar said he wanted to assure Dr Gomes that he would help him in his fight to achieve funding for Heart of Australia.

“I asked the Health Minister to meet with Dr Gomes last year but have received no interest from him,” said Mr Millar.

“I will now be writing to the Minister to bring this decision to his attention and ask him to reconsider.”