Photo: Charleville Hospital

A trailblazing endoscopy pilot program in the South West will be extended to Charleville
following its success at Roma and St George over the past year.

South West Hospital and Health Service Chief Executive Linda Patat said the locally-delivered
non-specialist endoscopy pilot program had been trialled successfully at Roma and St George
hospitals over the past year.

The program aims to train rural general practitioners to undertake routine endoscopy
procedures such as colonoscopies within their own regions, rather than relying on periodically
visiting specialist services from larger centres.

“As a result of its success, the service already has been expanded further at St George and
soon will be expanded also at Roma,’’ Ms Patat said.

“At Charleville Hospital, we have started doing some initial non-specialist endoscopy pilot
program sessions to set the foundations for a new service there.

“Once these have been bedded in, a full regular monthly endoscopy operating list under the
new program will be introduced to Charleville from the beginning of 2019.’’

Ms Patat said prior to the trial program being introduced last year, about 420 South West
residents a year were going to Toowoomba for various endoscopic and colonoscopy
procedures.

“The majority of these were fairly routine procedures and many of these are the sorts of
procedures that are now being done in the South West at Roma and St George hospitals – and
soon at Charleville,’’ she said.

“Indeed, over the past three years, and particularly the past year, the South West HHS has
increased the number of endoscopy procedures by 26 per cent.’’

Ms Patat said the trial program was run as a partnership between the South West HHS and the
Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane.

“Roma and St George rural generalist doctors Liam Weber and Tom Gleeson undertook an
extended training course to earn special accreditation to undertake various routine endoscopic
procedures,’’ she said.

“This has allowed them to undertake these procedures in the South West and to supplement the
specialist visiting endoscopy service to the region.’’

Princess Alexandra Hospital Director of Gastroenterology Prof. Gerald Holtmann said the trial
program to provide non-specialist rural general practitioners with additional procedural skills to
undertake routine endoscopic procedures was a first for Australia.

“The South West HHS really is a trailblazer in this and will be showing the way for many other
rural health services,’’ he said.

Prof. Holtmann said bowel cancer was now the second biggest killer in Australia after heart
disease.

“Early detection offers the best hope of reducing the number of Australians who die each year
from bowel cancer as this form of cancer is one of the most curable types if found early,’’ he
said.

“Endoscopic procedures such as regular colonoscopies for people deemed at risk of developing
bowel cancer, or who have recorded a positive faecal occult blood test, can significantly
improve survival rates by picking up the cancer early and allowing treatment to start.

“But this service is only available year-round in larger hospitals with specialist
gastroenterologists on staff, or as a periodically visiting specialist service at smaller hospitals.

“Most of the year, except at times when a visiting service is available, people in rural areas
would have to travel to a larger centre for such procedures.

“By training rural general practitioners to undertake routine endoscopy procedures such as
colonoscopies we can deliver a year-round service to rural residents closer to their homes.

“Where more complex procedures are required, patients will still need to travel to a major
hospital for specialist treatment.

“But for purely routine investigative procedures, these can easily be undertaken by properly
trained and accredited general practitioners such as doctors Gleeson and Weber here in the
South West.

“I would like to thank the South West HHS for its vision in recognising the importance of this
program and taking up the opportunity to be the pilot health service for it.’’

“They have done a great service for South West residents that is already delivering immense
benefits.’’

ENDS

For further information contact:
James Guthrie
Principal Media Officer, Rural and Remote Qld
Media and Communication
Department of Health
(07) 3708 5379
Jim.Guthrie@health.qld.gov.au