Tuesday, 4 October 2022

Petition launched to address shortage of heart doctors

The Wide Bay region home to 204,000 people is currently facing the threat of having only one interventional cardiologist to care for people having heart attacks.

Federal Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt said with over 1,700 patients from the Wide Bay last year alone receiving cardiology care when three interventional cardiologists practised locally, it is expected that wait lists will blow out and patients are likely to be air lifted to Brisbane for urgent heart surgery, putting lives at risk.

“At a cost to taxpayers of around $20,000 per patient air lifted, it’s time the Labor Government acted by implementing a basic change to the way exemptions are granted for specialists to be approved to work in regional areas,” Mr Pitt said.

“The Wide Bay has an ageing population, in a lower income area that has high rates of cardiac disease. All three of these factors combine to prove that we desperately need to attract and retain local cardiologists here in the Wide Bay.

“When you have a heart attack time is of the essence. Patients need to be wheeled into an operating theatre not into an ambulance to have them air lifted to a hospital down south just because we can’t get cardiologists in Bundaberg or Hervey Bay due to a technical issue with the way workforce shortages are calculated.

“Today I am launching a petition calling on the Federal Health Minister to make urgent changes before patients in this region are adversely affected.

“This issue was recently brought to my attention by local cardiologists who provide crucial cardiac care to numerous patients through both the Wide Bay Hospital Health Service and private hospitals in the region,” Mr Pitt said.

“I have heard about their difficulties in attracting and recruiting Cardiologists and there are real concerns that patient care will be affected.

Mr Pitt explained that each specialist has a Medicare provider number that is linked to the geographic region they are working in – in this instance, the Wide Bay region which takes in Bundaberg, Hervey Bay and Maryborough.

“If a specialist no longer bills in that area their provider number remains active, so on paper it looks like there are sufficient specialists in the region.

“This is having a flow-on effect when a District Workforce Shortage exemption is applied for and then refused, because according to the data, we have ample cardiologists.

“I’ve asked the Minister for Health to intervene and rectify this District Workforce Shortage data issue, something as simple as an annual audit from the Department to ensure it accurately reflects the number of Cardiologists practicing in the region.

“Without this change, the future of Cardiac care in the Wide Bay region is at risk and patients could be at risk, which is simply unacceptable.”

Bundaberg-based cardiologist Dr Hermann Wittmer said the need for Interventional Cardiologists in the Wide Bay region had escalated with emergency outpatient presentations and inpatient admissions through the public hospitals.

“We want the best healthcare outcome for the people that live in the Wide Bay region and right now, that is under threat,” Dr Wittmer said.

“Myself, Dr Andre Conradie and Prof. Angus Thompson provide significant services to the Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service including urgent intervention procedures, pacemaker insertion, stents and angiography, as well as daily ward rounds, specialist outpatient clinics and heart failure clinics.

“Without this change that Mr Pitt is lobbying for, we won’t be able to recruit interventional cardiologists to treat patients in the Wide Bay region and will need to rely on locums, which is not feasible long term and doesn’t provide continuity of care for patients.

“We’ve applied for exemptions for specialists to work in the region but they are rejected based on out-dated data. This situation could be rectified by the Department undertaking an audit on provider numbers which are no longer used to ensure they are making decisions on accurate information.”

To sign the petition please visit: https://www.gopetition.com/petitions/more-heart-doctors-for-hinkler.html

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