A NEW program has been launched to combat “distressing” amounts of travel faced by people needing to see Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialists.
Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon, HMRI researcher Dr Kelvin Kong, will lead a research program which aims to nip ear infections in the bud before they become life-changing problems.
Dr Kong will train local community health workers in Tamworth, Armidale, Gunnedah and Inverell to assess patients efficiently and speed up diagnosis and treatment.
Proposed new specialist medical centre in Tamworth Longyard precinct
“In this country we have first world standards for ear disease, but third world responses to Indigenous hearing,” Dr Kong said.
“That’s the exciting thing about this research.
“If you put in the effort at an early age you can change that life trajectory and do a wonderful thing for the whole of Australia.”
A $69,000 philanthropic grant will go towards purchasing ENT technology to earlier diagnose, treat and manage ear disease.
The funding will buy technology that will allow ENT specialists to remotely assess patients efficiently and rapidly.
“We often have a misconception about the problem with ear disease, we think it’s simply about hearing loss,” the ENT specialist said.
“But it’s actually about the life course of an Australian person and how we can improve that.”
Waiting for an ENT appointment can be quite distressing for parents and carers, and some families have to make a 1,000 kilometre return journey for a brief face-to-face appointment with a specialist.
Delays in receiving care can have a serious impact on the child’s ear health, quality of life and their culture and identity.
Chronic ear disease is 10 times higher in Aboriginal than non-Aboriginal populations and, if left untreated, can cause deafness.
The research program could roll-out in the New England region as early as the start of 2019.
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