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NQ kidney transplant service takes shape

Published:  29 June 2022

The first kidney transplant service outside south-east Queensland is another step closer with experts from the Queensland Kidney Transplant Service visiting Townsville University Hospital this week.

 Princess Alexandra Hospital transplant clinical nurse consultant Gary Torrens and Indigenous healthcare worker Brett Mooney have spent the past three days in Townsville working with North Queensland Kidney Transplant lead Dr Michelle Harfield and local dialysis patients.

 “The vision of our kidney transplant service is coming together beautifully,” Dr Harfield said.

 “We’re very fortunate to have people like Gary and Brett, who have been doing this work for years, to help us shape our unique vision for what we want our service to be,” she said.

 Dr Harfield said while the first transplanted kidney was still a couple of years away, several dialysis patients were currently being ‘worked up’ for the life-saving surgery.

 “We have patients at the moment who are dialysing three times a week and they are great candidates for transplant in the future,” she said.

 “They are very excited about us starting the process, which is quite complex, to work them up for a transplanted kidney.

 “More than anything, they are also excited about having the surgery here, close to their home and family, and in a hospital where everything is familiar and comfortable.”

 Dr Harfield said developing a culturally safe service was critical to the unit’s success.

“A disproportionate number of dialysis patients are First Nations people, and we are committed to creating a service that is culturally welcoming and safe,” she said.

“This is essential if we are to Close the Gap in health outcomes.”

Dr Harfield said the service would treat patients from communities including Cairns, Mackay, Torres Strait Islander, Thursday Island, Mount Isa, and communities in Cape York.

Mr Torrens said access and equity were key drivers for the delivery of a kidney transplant service for northern Queenslanders.‘‘We want to ensure the work happening in south-east Queensland can be delivered and tailored right across the state and here in North Queensland,” he said.

“That means keeping people closer to home and, on Country. 

‘‘The goal of a transplant is to improve a person’s quality life by getting them back to doing what they love with the people they love.

‘‘By delivering transplants here in Townsville, we can ensure patients are getting off dialysis and back to normality with their family sooner.’’

Mr Mooney said in his day-to-day work he often saw patients who have travelled away from their home and often receiving care with, little or, no family support.

‘‘I feel culturally accountable to be part of this journey for North Queensland renal patients,” he said.

“I want to empower our First Nations people to have access to kidney transplants.  

‘‘A service here in North Queensland means people will be in familiar surroundings with their existing treating teams in place which is a lot more comforting than travelling somewhere completely new.’’

‘‘Townsville is a major hub for remote and rural patients.

‘‘The team here tailors and evolves services to accommodate the needs of patients who are incredibly remote and rural.

“This is something that can be continued through the new transplant service.’’

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