(ABC News) Australian Story
By Megan Mackander and Kristine Taylor
May 29, 2017 20:30:20
Video: Dr Gomes is planning a second Heart Bus to visit at least five more rural towns.
A family member told Australian Story they were inspired to donate after hearing Dr Gomes speak at an event last year.The donation was in memory of their late father who also had a love for the bush and believed doctors were vital to the survival of country towns.”They told me their father had also wanted to try and get doctors out into the bush,” Dr Gomes said.”He’d spent years trying to create a program but ran into brick walls.”Almost 3,000 people have been through the doors of the “Heart Bus”, as itis known by local communities, since launching in October 2014.Wheels in motion for second truckPlans are now on the drawing board for a second truck which will enable Dr Gomes to widen the scope of services on offer beyond heart health. It’s going to get bigger, it’s going to get more expansive, and it can’t be ignored,” he said. A million-dollar mystery donation will help a mobile heart clinic roll into more rural towns, bringing specialist doctors and lifesaving expertise to the bush. It’s a lack of specialists.”Heart Bus made a ‘big difference’
Jimmy Smith from Winton in western Queensland with his grandson Aaron on the family property. (Supplied)
The blueprints include consulting rooms for a gastroenterologist, urologist and endocrinologist, and a surgery for minor operations.The second clinic is set to launch in January 2018 and will add another five towns to its Queensland route and possibly head interstate.Dr Gomes estimated it would cost $1 million to build the truck and $1 million a year to run the program.The six-figure donation came after an application to partner with the Queensland Government was rejected last year.Dr Gomes said he was disappointed the Government could not see value in supporting the program long-term.”Why wouldn’t the Government be more interested? Photo:
Dr Gomes says it costs $1 million to build a new cardiology clinic. (Australian Story: Anthony Sines)
City-country health care inequalityDr Gomes realised there was a city-country divide in health care when he was a trainee doctor on rural rotations in western Queensland.People living in the country are 44 per cent more likely to die of heart disease than people living in the city, and in some remote areas the figure can rise as high as 63 per cent, according to the National Heart Foundation.”You can’t look at the gap and say the way to address that is to maintain the status quo, because whatever already exists, clearly we need to be doing more,” he said.”We’re not talking about a lack of butchers, bakers, candlestick-makers. The donation was made by a family who wishes to remain anonymous. I lie in bed and I stare at the ceiling trying to work out reasons why,” Dr Gomes said.Public health programs ‘better value for money’In a statement to Australian Story, Queensland Health’s Dr John Wakefield said the Government did not routinely fund private specialist outreach services.”Private providers operate their businesses of their own accord under Medicare funding arrangements without ongoing State Government funding,” the deputy-director general of Clinical Excellence Division said.The State Government chipped in $250,000 to the Heart of Australia at its inception.Dr Wakefield said the current public health system provider model was “better value for money” and that it already offered public cardiology and endocrinology services to patients in rural Queensland.But Dr Gomes said there have never been any services similar to what the “Heart Bus” provided in rural Queensland.”The State Government says they can provide this system cheaper; the problem is they don’t, otherwise they would be there,” he said.”If there is a cheaper alternative I’d like to know what it is.”
The Heart of Australia mobile cardiology clinic rolls into Dalby in Queensland. Key points:Second ‘Heart Bus’ set to hit the road by start of 2018 with variety of specialists on boardQueensland Government says public programs “better value for money”Almost 3,000 patients have been through the clinic across 12 towns
The Heart of Australia is a cardiology clinic which operates off the back of a truck.It is the brainchild of engineer-turned-cardiologist Dr Rolf Gomes, who equipped the 25-metre truck with all the specialist gear of a city practice.The semi-trailer blazes a trail through outback Queensland, travelling 8,000 kilometres each month visiting 12 regional towns.The Brisbane-based doctor said the million-dollar donation came out of the blue and would now allow him to put a second mobile clinic on the road to reach more people in more towns.”Not every day does someone offer you a million dollars to build your dream,” Dr Gomes said.”I nearly fell off the back of my chair.”
The new Heart Bus will include consultation rooms and a surgery for minor operations. (ABC News: Blythe Moore)
Jimmy Smith runs cattle outside of Winton, which is a 16-hour drive from any Brisbane specialist.Mr Smith had not seen a cardiologist in 16 years since having a stent inserted.After a consultation at the “Heart Bus” he was referred to Brisbane for further testing.A blockage was discovered and is now controlled with medication and regular monitoring.Almost 12 months on, Mr Smith said he was “feeling pretty good”.”We are still in drought and it’s hard to get away,” he said.”Having it [the Heart Bus] right there on the doorstep has made a big difference to me.”Mr Gomes said it was his long-term plan to take the “Heart Bus” nationally.”The truth is the program is here to stay one way or the other.
Meet Jimmy and Bob, two patients of the cardiology 'clinic on wheels'
Queensland rejects funding proposal for cardiology 'clinic on wheels'