HEATHER and Robert Mills, Dalmuir, Hughenden, run a property, a trucking business, and have to take frequent trips to Brisbane to access medical services and specialists.
Mr Mills has had surgery for prostate cancer, is diabetic, has glaucoma, while Mrs Mills has had two knee operations and is a coeliac.
In the past, the Mills’ have had to make multiple trips to Brisbane to seek treatment which has also led to lengthy stays away from home.
Speaking at the Rural Doctors Association of Queensland 2017 Conference last week, St Andrews War Memorial Hospital business development manager, Candice Crawford, officially launched the Rural Health Connect service.
The service was developed to support regional and rural patients travelling to Brisbane for specialist medical services.
The Mills’ story has a special place for Ms Crawford, as they are her aunt and uncle.
“My relationship with my aunt and uncle provided me with a personal insight into the difficulties and challenges people living in rural areas face in accessing specialist care,” she said.
“I’m really proud to be able to launch the Rural Health Connect Service on behalf of St Andrews.”
The service offers a one-stop shop for rural patients requiring healthcare – with one phone number and one employee on-hand to organise their appointments and advise them on travel and accommodation options.
A general practitioner can now refer a patient to as many specialists as they need, and through Rural Health Connect, appointments will be made as close together as possible at a time which is suitable for the patient.
This will prevent multiple trips and extended length of stay in Brisbane, bringing patients home to their family sooner.
Mrs Mills said the program and the support that she has received from St Andrews has been is “unbelievable”.
“I know now I just need to phone that number, tell them what referrals that I’ve got, and they’re going to phone me back and tell me when and where to be,” she said.
Mrs Mills said between the business and their large cattle station, they were “too busy” to leave town constantly for appointments.
Ms Crawford said St Andrew’s care for a high percentage of rural patients and were responding to their unique needs by creating a personalised, patient centred service.
“In developing Rural Health Connect, we consulted with St Andrew’s specialists and key people in rural health to ensure sure that we were creating a service that was useful and wasn’t going to take away from services that were already being provided in those areas,” she said.
“We didn’t want people to skip past what was already available in their area and travel to the city unnecessarily, however services are limited in many rural and remote communities.”
After obtaining a commitment from the specialists within the hospital and seeking advice from referring rural GPs, the Rural Health Connect pilot program was born.
“We are also partnering with Wesley Medical Research who will be a running a research project to assess the Rural Health Connect service to ensure that we are delivering what our rural patients need,” Ms Crawford said.