Hosted by The University of Western Australia’s WA Centre for Rural Health (WACRH) and Rural Health West, the heart health forum pinpointed a lack of resources and poor processes for cardiology support as being to blame for the problem.
Convenors Associate Professor Dr Judith Katzenellenbogen and Research Fellow Emma Haynes from WACRH said participants agreed that willingness from all stakeholders, including government, was needed to tackle the challenges.
“At the meeting, specialist cardiologists Joe Hung and Marcus Ilton provided training to medical practitioners, with the Northern Territory’s comprehensive system of care offered as a relevant best-practice model,” Ms Haynes said.
“Nursing, allied health and Aboriginal health workforce participants discussed the importance of prevention, discharge planning and cardiac rehabilitation – a post-discharge education and exercise program to help people return to an active life.”
The forum found that putting into practice what was known to improve heart health was challenging in the Pilbara, with nurses and doctors in the remote area not supported sufficiently to provide evidence-based care, such as life-saving clot-busting procedures.
“Access to essential specialist support services and diagnostic tests, such as echocardiography, and basic diagnostic tools such as electronically transmittable ECGs for suspected acute heart attacks and Holter monitors for heart rhythm problems is limited,” Professor Joe Hung said.
“Out-of-pocket expenses for patients are a significant barrier to care. Long-term follow up care for people with heart problems to prevent their condition worsening is also substantially under-funded in the Pilbara.”
Participants, led by Pilbara Health Network CEO Jo Halpin, called for the formation of a cardiology health network to support heart health in the region.
“One of the strengths of the meeting was the opportunity it provided for connecting local service providers and raising their awareness of other available services,” Dr Katzenellenbogen said.
“Linkages made with a range of Perth experts have expanded the professional support networks of local providers. Now we need to see some action.”
Judith Katzenellenbogen (WA Centre for Rural Health) (+61 4) 21 776 749
Emma Haynes (WA Centre for Rural Health) (+61 4) 14 450 134
David Stacey (UWA Media and Public Relations Manager) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 32 637 716