NSW Telestroke Service delivers health care faster to regions than its city counterparts

NSW Telestroke Service delivers health care faster to regions than its city counterparts

A technological development that allows stroke patients to be treated regardless of their location is being hailed as a major medical breakthrough.

Key points: More than 3000 stroke patients in regional NSW have been treated by the NSW telestroke service, Regional Health Minister Bronnie Taylor says regional patients are now being treated faster than those in the city. The service is now available at 23 rural and regional hospitals

The New South Wales Telestroke Service now provides service to 23 rural and regional hospitals, from the Tweed to Tamworth, Bega to Broken Hill.

The service connects local doctors with specialized stroke doctors hundreds of miles away in major hospitals via video.

NSW Telestroke service medical director Professor Ken Butcher said there was “a geographic bias in access to treatment and better outcomes for stroke patients in metropolitan cities”.

“It now brings state-of-the-art treatment assessments and treatment to those living in regional communities,” he said.

“It’s an equalizer.”

In NSW, each year, approximately 19,000 stroke patients and a third of those admitted to hospital are from regional areas.

Bronnie Taylor says the technology is a “game changer” for rural communities. (Supplied: SBS)

Regional Health Minister Bronnie Taylor said the service had now been rolled out across the state and had provided consultations to 3,000 patients.

“Telestroke was an absolute game changer,” she said.

“To think you can be treated faster in a rural and regional area than metropolitan Sydney is a very good day.”

Stroke victims welcome service

When Alstonville psychologist David Roland had a stroke in 2009 at the age of 52, he initially did not know what had happened to him.

David Roland suffered a stroke in 2009, which took three weeks to diagnose. (Credit: David Roland)

Dr. Roland was in the middle of a stressful work situation when he kept repeating questions to his wife one morning as the color drained from his body.

“There was this incredible loss of memory of names,” he said.

“I had trouble even remembering the names of my own children.”

Dr Roland was admitted to Lismore Base Hospital, where he was diagnosed with extreme stress and showing signs of memory loss.

“It took three weeks to find out I had a stroke … and that was after I was admitted to a private psychiatric clinic,” he said.

Dr Roland believes that a Telestroke service like this available a decade ago when he had a stroke would have made a critical difference to his diagnosis and treatment.

“It would have led to an almost immediate diagnosis or at least a same-day diagnosis and probably extra clinical care,” he said.

“At least I would have gotten a big dose of Asprin.”

The $21.7 million NSW Telestroke Service is jointly funded by the NSW and Commonwealth governments.

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