PACCAR Australia is donating the use of a Kenworth K200 cab-over to a new mobile health initiative that will bring high-level specialist medical services to remote communities, starting in the south-west of Queensland.
Strong support for this great initiative It’s the Heart of Australia project, the brainchild of 41-year-old Queensland cardiologist, Dr. Rolf Gomes, claimed to be the only multi-specialty mobile clinic project yet undertaken in Australia. In terms of the area it will cover, this also promises to be the most ambitious service of its kind anywhere in the world.
Heart of Australia was launched in Toowoomba in the first week of October, with Kenworth’s K200 hauling a 19m customised trailer outfitted with more than $500,000 worth of state-of-the-art medical equipment.
Dr. Gomes says cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in Australia, with one person dying every 12 minutes, but people living in remote areas have a far higher rate of hospitalisation and death resulting from the disease.
“The key problem is that so many of these communities do not have specialist cardiac health services,” Dr. Gomes said. “That’s the reason I founded Heart of Australia – to give people in the bush access to the same services the rest of Australia takes for granted.”
In its first year, the mobile unit aims to travel more than 72,000 km, covering an area of over 450,000 square km. This will allow people from remote areas to access specialist services they would usually have to travel sometimes thousands of kilometres to reach.
Although Heart of Australia was launched in Toowoomba, the nearby town of Dalby will act as a hub for the south-west Queensland phase of the program. The mobile clinic aims to service at least five rural and remote towns – and surrounding communities – in its first year of operation.
The project will begin by visiting communities in the Surat Basin, including Roma, Charleville, Dalby, Goondiwindi and St George. The planned second phase will focus on the central west, visiting towns such as Barcaldine, Winton, Hughenden and Moranbah.
The mobile unit will stop in each town for two days and return for another two days each fortnight.
“The fortnightly visits will enable us to examine all the patients in a town referred by local general practitioners, and follow-up on the progress of patients seen on earlier visits,” Dr. Gomes said. “In addition, we will have experts in different specialties on different visits.
“On our first visit, for example, we would have a cardiologist. On our second visit to the town, we may have a cardiologist and an endocrinologist. On visits, when a particular specialist isn’t onboard, they can still conduct follow-up consultations via teleconferencing and telemedicine,” he explained.
Onboard at all times will be a nurse, a consulting cardiologist and a cardiac scientist/sonographer. Other specialists and support staff will fly into towns and join the mobile clinic when required.
Heart of Australia has attracted widespread support from the Australian Medical Association Queensland, the Medicare Local health bodies which co-ordinate regional services and also a growing number of local GPs and councils. In addition, Dr. Gomes has gained the backing of Queensland’s largest private cardiology group, the Queensland Cardiovascular Group, which will assist with the provision of the required cardiologists.
In addition, the program has received funding from the Australian and Queensland governments, and support from various corporate sponsors including Arrow Energy, St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital, Bayer Australia and IOR Petroleum.
PACCAR Australia was the first to back the program with the provision of a Kenworth prime mover for 12 months, covering the first phase of the program. In addition, Brown and Hurley, PACCAR’s longest-serving and largest dealer group, will provide truck service and maintenance throughout this time.
“We’re proud to have PACCAR as our major transport partner – they have been critical to the success of this program,” Dr. Gomes said.
“Heart of Australia is a great cause, but it will only be successful if people understand the issues and appreciate what’s needed,” Dr. Gomes said. “PACCAR Australia understood immediately. When you’re behind the iconic Kenworth name, Australia’s leading truck brand, you know full well the vast distances between the city and the bush, and just how remote so many of these communities are. PACCAR recognised the program’s potential in terms of improving health outcomes in those areas, and they have remained committed ever since,” he said.
PACCAR Australia’s Managing Director, Mike Dozier, said he was excited about supporting a worthy and much-needed service.
“We are delighted to be contributing to this unique initiative, and we’re looking forward to the possibility of a longer-term relationship. Heart of Australia is an important medical resource which will improve life in many communities and, no doubt, save lives as well. You cannot put a price on this service, and that’s why we got involved,” he said.
“The mobile health clinic will be visiting a number of rural mining and agricultural areas which rely heavily on road-based transport,” Mr Dozier added.
All medical tests and consultations will be conducted in Heart of Australia’s self-contained medical clinic trailer, which was custom built by Varley Group in Brisbane. It comprises a variety of air-conditioned rooms, including a reception and waiting area, several consultation rooms, a testing room and an amenities area. A wheelchair access lift has also been fitted.
All non-invasive tests available to patients in Brisbane will be available onboard the mobile clinic. This includes everything from an echocardiogram, cardiac ultrasound and cardiac stress testing to heart monitoring, blood pressure monitoring and sleep apnoea testing.
“Once a patient has been referred by their GP, they will be seen by a specialist who will run a series of non-invasive tests,” Dr Gomes said. “The results will be available immediately or usually within a few hours. This enables the specialist to make a diagnosis, have a follow-up consultation with the patient and start treatment generally within 24 hours. There’s not the delay you have when you see a specialist in the city, where the whole process could take weeks or even months, from the initial appointment to tests scheduled at a later time and then the follow-up usually weeks after that. With Heart of Australia, the entire procedure occurs virtually on the spot in the patient’s home town,” he explained.
“When I began working on this program, one of the aims was to ultimately offer a range of specialist services beyond cardiology. We have achieved this even before the program has begun. We will be offering respiratory physicians as well as an immunologist and endocrinologist. That’s just the start. Before long we’ll be offering other medical disciplines.” Dr. Gomes said.
“Heart of Australia was my vision, but it’s the result of a joint effort by a large number of individuals and organisations, including generous sponsors, like PACCAR Australia,” he concluded.
Watch for further news in the coming months, on the progress of the Heart of Australia program. Regular website articles at kenworth.com.au will keep you up to date on the response to this great initiative.
For more information, visit http://www.heartofaustralia.com/
Kenworth trucks are designed and manufactured in Australia to meet the world’s toughest applications. Kenworth, a division of PACCAR Australia, is market leader in heavy duty trucks in Australia. Its trucks are also exported to Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. PACCAR Inc, a Six Sigma company, is a global technology leader in the design, manufacture and customer support of high-quality light, medium, and heavy-duty trucks under the Kenworth, Peterbilt and DAF nameplates. PACCAR also designs and manufactures advanced diesel engines, provides financial services and information technology, and distributes truck parts related to its principal business.