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The $1.4 million birthday present a Townsville family never saw coming

Published:  24 May 2021

Amanda and Steve Stones were celebrating their daughter Emily’s third birthday when the phone rang with good news.

Townsville Hospital and Health Service had secured $1.4 million to establish a paediatric cardiology service in North Queensland.

“Emily has dilated cardiomyopathy which means her heart is enlarged and can’t effectively pump blood around her body,” she said.

“When she was diagnosed, we spent a month in Queensland Children’s Hospital and a further two months in Brisbane as an outpatient.

“What surprised me was that there were hundreds of other families in North Queensland who had children with similar conditions to Emily who didn’t have any dedicated support in Townsville.

“It means the absolute world to us that Emily will now be able to get her care here in Townsville.”

For the past 18 months, Amanda and Steve have been lobbying for a paediatric cardiology service in North Queensland.

Paediatrician and medical director of the Health and Wellbeing Service Group Dr Jason Yates said it was fantastic to bring new specialist services to North Queensland.

“This is fantastic for the Townsville Hospital and Health Service and families like Amanda and Steve who have fought tirelessly to bring services like this to their backyard,” he said.

“If these families come to hospital, they should be able to get all of the care their child needs at the same time at the same appointment and this new service will allow us to do that.

“We’ve only just got this news and the team who lobbied so hard for this service have quickly gone into planning mode to get it up and running.”

Recruitment for a paediatric cardiologist, a paediatric registrar, bookings officer, clinical nurse, and cardiac scientist to run the North Queensland Paediatric Cardiology Service will start from July 1, 2021.

The service will open its doors in early 2022.

“Just in the past couple of months, we’ve had another 10 children requiring regular support and care from a cardiologist, taking our numbers locally to about 150,” he said.

“This service will make a world of difference for children with conditions such as congenital heart defects and rheumatic heart disease.

It will allow patients on Palm Island to receive much of their care in community and is the first step to supporting our northern Queensland colleagues and keeping patients closer to home.”

Jason said it was important to understand that the local cardiology service would provide medical management but could not perform surgical procedures.

“Our service will not be able to do paediatric heart surgery, but we will be able to manage these children before and after their operation which means they’ll be able to get home sooner," he said.

“This is something that our team has been keen to establish and our little patients and their families will be chuffed I’m sure.”

Previously paediatric cardiology services were delivered through an outreach model with a visiting cardiologist from Children’s Health Queensland.

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