Labor pledge to set up National Telestroke Network


By Michael Woodhead

19 Mar 2019

Prof Bruce Campbell

A $12 million funding pledge to establish a National Telestroke Network by the opposition Labor Party has been welcomed by neurologists.

Labor has backed the Stroke Foundation’s 2018 telehealth model to extend specialist stroke services into rural areas. Leader Bill Shorten says that if elected, Labor will provide funding to allow 41 rural and regional emergency departments to access via telehealth a round-the-clock roster of metropolitan-based stroke specialists.

Under the telehealth network, neurologists would be available to review a patient’s brain scan via computer software remotely, then provide diagnosis, timely treatment advice and assist with rapid transfer to city hospitals for more advanced treatments where appropriate.

Professor Bruce Campbell, a consultant neurologist at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and chair of the Stroke Foundation Clinical Council, said a telehealth network was urgently needed to redress the inequity of regional and rural patients missing out on lifesaving stroke treatments due to lack of stroke specialists.

“A national telestroke network will remove geographical barriers to these stroke treatments, it will save lives and boost the capacity of our regional doctors to treat stroke,’’ said Professor Campbell, an inaugural member of the Victorian stroke telemedicine project.

“Surviving and living well after stroke will no longer be determined by your postcode.’’

In a statement, the Stroke Foundation noted that regional Australians are 19% more likely to suffer a stroke than people in metropolitan areas, and also more likely to die or have a significant disability as a result of stroke because of limited access to specialist stroke treatment and care.

“The establishment of a National Telestroke Network will strengthen, connect and build on the well-established Victorian telestroke network, as well as pilot projects underway in New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia. It will deliver all Australians access to emergency stroke treatment when and where they need it,” the Foundation said.

The development of a National Telestroke Network was a key action highlighted in the development and draft of the National Heart and Stroke Action Plan. Work is underway to finalise the Action Plan, identifying gaps in the current health system and prioritise actions that can be taken to reduce the toll of stroke and heart disease in our communities.

Labor’s plan will provide $11.9 million to build a Telestroke Network including $3 million for the Australian Stroke Clinical Registry to ensure the Network’s data is captured and $600,000 for education programs to teach the community about the F.A.S.T signs of stroke.

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