CARDIOLOGY services at Latrobe Regional Health are about to get a big boost with the expansion of the cardiology team.


“The expansion of the team will allow us to provide seven days a week care to inpatients, rather than the previous focus on day procedures for outpatients,” said the LRH Cardiology Director, Dr Derk Pol.


Gippsland has the highest incidence of cardiovascular disease in Australia and current analysis shows that only 10 per cent of local patients received care locally.


“At the moment the overwhelming majority of cardiac patients are treated in Melbourne. When you look at oncology or dialysis that number is closer to 100 per cent of local patients seen and treated locally.


“This expansion will allow us to see more local people here at LRH. The plans for future expansion of services will mean that in years to come, it will be unusual for a Gippsland patient requiring cardiac intervention, not to be seen locally,” Dr Pol said.


The benefit for local patients to be seen closer to their home is well known, with less stress for the patients, family and quicker recovery.


“We want patients to be able to have the best possible care locally. I remember seeing a patient a couple of weeks ago. He had a referral from a GP and a positive stress test. We took him in to the Cardiac Catheter Lab and gave him a stent. He was home the next day and we saw him in our clinic two weeks later, and he’s saying: ‘You’ve changed my life! I was in pain every day. It was so good to be able to drive 10 minutes to the hospital, get great care from everyone and then be driven 10 minutes to get home. No trip to Melbourne where I wouldn’t know anyone and in a big hospital away from family and friends'”


As part of the expansion, cardiac specialists have either been recruited or have agreed to increase their time providing services at LRH.


“There is obviously a lot of demand for cardiac specialists, and while we have two local cardiologists, complementing these doctors with others cardiologists who will extend their hours, allows us to offer the local community more services, which of course improves health outcomes for people,” Dr Pol said.


By being on site at LRH more frequently, specialists will have greater involvement with patients, attend ward rounds and team meetings, provide support to colleagues and overall, build a more positive culture for the cardiology team and LRH.


One other aspect of building the bigger service is ensuring local GPs are aware that the services they have historically referred to Melbourne are increasingly available in the Latrobe Valley.


“People are starting to realise we do have a department here now. Traditionally, local GPs would have sent patients to Melbourne but more are becoming aware that patients can have a pretty full suite of interventions locally without going down to Melbourne, and that we are constantly expanding those services to offer local people more,” Dr Pol said.


The expansion of the cardiology team coincides with the opening of LRH’s Stage 3A expansion featuring new operating theatres, surgical wards and services for women, children and babies.


“It’s a pretty exciting time for us at LRH but also the community,” said the LRH chief executive, Don McRae.


“The expansion of the Cardiology team is one part of a broader expansion of services which will see us offer more for locals and improve the quality of life for Gippsland.”