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Kidney transplant service reaches the Far North

TOWNSVILLE University Hospital (TUH) is set to become the second kidney transplant service in Queensland and the only one of its kind outside the south-east corner.

The North Queensland Kidney Transplant 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.

Transplant surgeries will be provided at Townsville University Hospital, but pre- and post-transplant care will be delivered at other hospitals across the catchment closer to where patients live.

The service will include several initiatives designed to improve local transplantation rates, including strategies to reduce the travel, financial and cultural barriers encountered by transplant patients.

Patients and clinicians from all five health services across northern Queensland will work together to design the uniquely northern and networked approach to kidney transplantation.

Townsville Hospital and Health Service chief executive Kieran Keyes said In its first year of operations, they anticipate the service will change the lives of about 30 people through a lifesaving transplant.

‘‘We expect the number of transplantations will grow in the future and, also, strengthen our position as the tertiary referral hospital for the region,” he said.

‘‘This service will mean more people from northern Queensland are worked up for transplants earlier in their journey and can be placed on the wait list sooner, increasing their ability to have a transplant which they will then receive closer to home here in Townsville.

‘‘Ultimately, the service will see less people needing dialysis and more people getting back to their communities, their families, and their day-to-day lives.”

The Queensland Government’s $15 million investment will be used to design the model of care needed, and fund specialist equipment, and staffing. 

North Queensland Kidney Transplant lead Dr Michelle Harfield said there are higher rates of dialysis in north Queensland but lower rates of transplantation due to the “geographic burden travelling to and from Brisbane has on our northern Queensland patients”.

‘‘Thanks to this funding, we know more patients will have a transplant rather than staying on dialysis, and in doing so, will live longer and healthier lives,” she said.

‘‘Kidney disease disproportionately affects disadvantaged, rural, and First Nations people, who make up a significant proportion of our population.

“Unfortunately, the tyranny of distance means some patients decline a lifesaving transplant and instead spend many weeks, months, and years on dialysis in an effort to stay close to home.

‘‘I look forward to seeing kidney transplant rates for disadvantaged people, including First Nations people, increase through our commitment to creating a service designed to meet the needs of our community and one that is culturally welcoming and safe.”

The first kidney transplant is expected to take place at TUH in early 2025. 

This service will create approximately 40 health care worker positions across north Queensland and links in with satellite renal dialysis network located across north Queensland.

Keep up with the latest news in Cairns and the Far North, and check out some of our top stories this week: Harleys celebrates 30 years and three generations and Hospital pharmacist recognised for work.

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