Forums highlight regional health gains

Forums highlight regional health gains

Events
WAFarmers' country health forums were held last week in Albany and Esperance.

WAFarmers' country health forums were held last week in Albany and Esperance.

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The health forums form part of WAFarmers' annual roadshow events and were held at the Albany and Esperance bowls clubs.

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WAFarmers held country health forums in Albany and Esperance last week, which highlighted the successes and challenges of the State's regional private health services.

The health forums form part of WAFarmers' annual roadshow events and were held at the Albany and Esperance bowls clubs.

Members heard from Great Southern Specialist Centre manager Latrice Porter, Montserrat Hospital State manager Brendon Ball and Perth Urology Clinic's Matt Brown, who all spoke about the positive steps taken to improve health services in regional areas and what changes were still needed.

WAFarmers president John Hassell outlined the importance of attracting more private health services to WA's regional centres in the form of allied health services, including physiotherapy and occupational therapy, along with private aged care and day surgeries.

"As our big regional coastal centres that support agriculture, Geraldton, Albany and Esperance, reach a critical mass of about 30,000 people, these towns can support a growing suite of specialist services," Mr Hassell said.

"We need to ensure that the State government continues to fund a large local hospital with all the accident and emergency services and a comprehensive mix of medical staff, as this underwrites the ability of specialists to fly in and offer consultations and theatre services that would normally only be available in Perth.

"We accept that we will never have the full range of specialist doctors, but with three flights a day to Albany, along with regular flights to Geraldton and Esperance, there is no reason why we can't attract more specialist doctors."

Mr Hassell said it was important for surgeons to be given the ability to use local facilities and staff so that surgical procedures could be offered to both private and public patients.

The Great Southern Specialist Centre, which is owned and managed by Latrice Porter, is aptly located on the same site as the Albany Day Hospital.

The centre has been open for three years and started off with four local resident specialists and five visiting specialists from Perth.

Today the centre employs 12 local specialists and has 25 visiting specialists.

The visiting specialists hire rooms at the centre, which provides them with all of their administration support for their appointments while working in Albany.

"We wanted to build our facility here to attract specialists to Albany, so that our patients don't have to travel to Perth as often," Ms Porter said.

"Obviously in some cases they still need to, however if they can have their initial consultation here before procedures with our visiting specialists coming to them - well it all helps."

Despite increasing the services offered since their inception, Ms Porter said there were still gaps which they had struggled to fill, including the specialist roles of a female gynaecologist, a neurologist and a private pediatrician.

"Part of my role is going out and canvassing to see if specialists may be interested in coming here, but it can be quite hard to coerce people from the city, as they already have busy practices in Perth," Ms Porter said.

She said it was disappointing that no government funding had been provided for health specialist travel, besides a small amount provided by Rural Health West.

Due to high demand at the Great Southern Specialist Centre, the owners plan to build an additional practice.

Mr Ball spoke about the rapid growth of day surgeries across Australia and the wide range of theatre services performed, while Mr Brown spoke about Perth Urology, which is the only partnership practice of its kind in Australia.

At Perth Urology, six resident surgeons specialise in every aspect of urology from women, to robotic and complex cancers requiring the rebuilding of bladders.

Unlike other specialist practices, where the surgeon has to cover all areas of their speciality, Perth Urology sub-specialise into highly defined areas of surgical medicine.

"My area of interest is robotic surgery for prostate cancer and the application of specialist implants to help avoid some of the side effects of surgery," Mr Brown said.

He made an impassioned plea for men to have annual blood tests and check ups, saying the earlier issues were identified the greater the options and chances of success.

He said procedures that were being offered in day surgery theatres such as the Albany Day Hospital were revolutionising regional health.

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