28 December 2023

Efforts ramped up to lift dialysis services in Cape

| Matt Nicholls
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Cooktown Multipurpose Health Service renal clinical nurse Sonya Culley with registered nurse Mark Chu and patient Victor Gibson.

Recruitment is underway for two additional nurses to expand the Cooktown Hospital’s renal haemodialysis unit.

The additional staff are expected to be in place during the first half of 2024 and will allow the eight-chair Cooktown renal dialysis unit to double their available dialysis sessions.

The unit’s expanded capacity will see the number of patients cared for increase from 16 to up to 32 patients.

The Cooktown MPHS assisted dialysis unit is one of four units within the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service region, with other units located at Thursday Island, Weipa, and Bamaga.

A fifth unit currently is being built at Kowanyama and is expected to be operational by mid-2024.

The state government is committed to delivering health care services for Queenslanders, no matter where they live.

“The expansion of dialysis sessions here in Cooktown is just one way our government is working to deliver world-class healthcare for Queenslanders, no matter where they live,” said Minister for Health Shannon Fentiman.

“We know how tough it is for Queenslanders who need to travel away from home to access this life-saving care.

“That’s why we have invested more than $66 million to support better and more equitable access to kidney healthcare services right across the state.”

A government spokesperson added: “The availability of assisted dialysis services across four health facilities in the Torres Strait, Northern Peninsula Area and on Cape York – with a fifth under construction at Kowanyama – is a major improvement in the lives of those people who are clinically able to use these services.

“Not all patients requiring dialysis will be suitable to have their dialysis in one of the Torres and Cape’s dialysis units or be able to undertake home or self-care dialysis.

“Due to the complexity of their conditions and the clinical requirement for them to have immediate access to highly specialised kidney services that are not available in the region, there may always be some patients who will need to relocate permanently to Cairns, or another large centre, to access those services.”

The $600,000 funding for the Cooktown Multipurpose Health Service haemodialysis unit was announced as part of a $27.8 million state-wide allocation for the expansion of regional, rural, and remote dialysis services following a commitment made at the 2020 October election.

Dialysis is the mechanical cleaning of the blood and removal of excess fluid from the body which is required to sustain life when the kidneys are no longer able to perform this function.

There are two types of dialysis: peritoneal dialysis and haemodialysis.

In peritoneal dialysis the blood is cleansed inside the body using one of the body’s own membranes, the peritoneum, as a filter.

In haemodialysis, blood travels outside the body through tubing to a filter on a dialysis machine to remove wastes, excess fluids and to balance the person’s blood chemistry before being returned to the body.

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