The Bligh Government’s investment in innovation is giving Innisfail patients with chronic lung and heart disease improved access to high-level specialist care closer to home.

Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt said the expansion of telehealth services throughout the state meant patients in rural and regional areas can have increased access to specialists without having to travel.

“This extra funding is delivering telehealth services at The Prince Charles Hospital (TPCH) in Brisbane for patients with cystic fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension, heart failure and those requiring assessment before and after heart transplantation,” he said.

“The telehealth technology now in place means patients can now speak to specialist staff from TPCH’s thoracic team from a local hospital or community health centre.

“Prior to the introduction of telehealth clinics, patients would only have direct contact with specialist multi-disciplinary teams via outreach clinics or by travelling to Brisbane for admission.

“More regular contact means a patient’s condition can be monitored more closely and gives them access to a wide range of specialist staff, particularly when this is not available close to the patients’ home.”

“The benefits for patients are enormous with reduced travel and less stress,” he said.

“But it also potentially benefits staff by providing education to local health care professionals in regional areas and providing them with the opportunity to upskill in areas with only a small number of patients with these complex lung diseases.”

Acting Director of Telehealth Services Andrew Bryett said TPCH staff were working with the specialist and statewide thoracic teams, including the Sleep Disorders Centre, cystic fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension, heart failure and heart transplant areas.

“Telehealth will help support the specialist care for our existing and future patients from regional and rural Queensland who are referred to the four services in the thoracic program at TPCH,” he said.

Health Minister Geoff Wilson said Queensland Health had provided over $500,000 in 2010/11 and 2011/12 to improve access to health care for people with complex chronic lung and heart disease who live in regional and rural areas.

The funding is part of an additional $2 million worth of telehealth services around the State, delivering more health services to more people in more locations.