Technology links Bendigo

A BROADBAND video link will help neurosurgeons from Melbourne treat patients in Bendigo.

The new project has been trialled over the past two years and was officially launched at Bendigo Health and other regional hospitals, allowing specialist surgeons to assist in the treatment of stroke victims.

Trialling the video connection yesterday, Bendigo Health’s acting clinical director of medicine Greg Harris said the technology presented great opportunities for the future of healthcare in the region.

He said expertise and specialist advice that was previously unavailable in Bendigo could now be delivered at the flick of a button.

“It will be rolled out into other areas of medicine... this is just the thin end of the wedge,” he said.

“There’s a virtual network of stroke specialists who will be on call in Melbourne 24 hours a day to answer a telephone number for advice”

With video conferencing technology assisting treatment of patients with acute stroke symptoms Mr Harris said the key factor was timing.

“The difference between one hour and two hours is critical, particularly if we need to transport,” he said.

The project is being led by the Florey Institute for Neuroscience and Mental Health in Melbourne.

It has been funded under the state government’s $18 million Broadband Enabled Innovation Program (BEIP). 

Consultant doctor of the Emergency Department Peter Cosgriff said there had been initial reservations that the technology would be too complicated to use.

But he said local doctors had eventually discovered its practical use in terms of training resident doctors in Echuca. Technology Minister Gordon Rich-Phillips said the project had the very real potential to save lives in regional Victoria.

“Access to specialist stroke expertise is extremely limited in rural and regional hospitals,” Dr Rich-Phillips said. 

“Hospitals in Bendigo, Mildura, Swan Hill and Echuca will be the first regional bases to use the highly advanced stroke telemedicine technology in the Loddon Mallee district. Stroke treatment is time critical.

“Enabling fast clinical decision-making and rapid treatment has the potential to make a significant difference to patient outcomes.”

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