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NQ kidney transplant service another step closer

Published:  06 January 2023

Townsville Hospital and Health Service has reached another milestone on its journey toward developing the second kidney transplant service in Queensland, and first service outside south-east Queensland, with the submission of a detailed business case to the Department of Health.

North Queensland Kidney Transplant lead Dr Michelle Harfield said the completion and submission of the business case was the next step toward delivering kidney transplants for North and Far North Queensland patients closer to home.

"We are very proud of the finished product which is the result of collaboration with community members and colleagues from across the health system to design a service specifically for northern Queensland patients," Dr Harfield said.

"The service will treat local patients as well as those from communities across North Queensland including Cairns, Mackay, Cape York, Torres Strait Islands and Mount Isa.

"We have higher rates of dialysis here in North and Far North Queensland but lower rates of transplantation due to the geographic burden travelling to and from Brisbane has on our northern Queensland patients.

"This is something we know will change by having a kidney transplant service based here in Townsville.

"We also know a disproportionate number of dialysis patients are First Nations people, and we are committed to creating a service that is culturally welcoming and safe to ultimately increase kidney transplants for First Nations people."

Having been on renal dialysis for more than 5 years, Susie Anderson (centre), knows firsthand the impact renal dialysis can have on a person’s life. 

"A lot of people don’t understand the big impact dialysis has on all areas of your life, including your physical and emotional health and your family," she said.

Ms Anderson received a kidney transplant in 2014 which unfortunately failed in 2020. Ms Anderson has now been on the waiting list for a new kidney, an ultimately life-changing donation.

"I currently have dialysis three times a week for four and half hours each go,"’ Ms Anderson said.

"After dialysis, it’s like you’ve run a marathon. You’re absolutely buggered for the rest of the day. 

"Having been to Brisbane for my first transplant, I know firsthand how very emotionally draining the process can be. 

"When you go and have your transplant, you’re in hospital for five days and then you go to accommodation for weeks afterward, but if I was here, I could go home.

"While you have a lot of support from our local health service and the team in Brisbane, you can be away for an extended period so there is stress involved in arranging care for pets, your home,
and your family.

"I can see why some dialysis patients with young children would decline a transplant if having to travel to Brisbane.

"t would be exciting to know you can have your surgery here close to you home, family, pets and treating team in a hospital where everything is familiar and comfortable."

Townsville Hospital and Health Service director of planning Billy Bragg (left) said the transplant unit was set to be life-changing and saving.

"Having the surgical site here in Townsville will increase our capacity to meet the growing demand of our community, while strengthening our position as the tertiary referral hospital for the region,"
he said.

"Showing we can do transplants will open the door for other super specialty services normally only available in Brisbane.

"More than that, we have shown how collaboration between clinicians across the system can result in new ideas that benefit patients.

"The business case proposes pre- and post-transplantation care being provided closer to home for all patients, as well as several initiatives to reduce the burden on patients during their transplant
journey. The whole idea is improving access, outcomes, and experience.

"The creation of a new service will allow more people from northern Queensland to be placed on the wait list, receive their transplant, and no longer need dialysis so they can get back to some
normality in their day-to-day lives.”

Find out more about the North Queensland Kidney Transplant Service here

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