UNE hosts Rural Cardiology Conference

Published 12 May 2008

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More than 100 people gathered at the University of New England last week to share their knowledge and experience of heart-disease prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation.

The delegates – from northern NSW, Sydney and the Gold Coast – were attending the second annual Rural Cardiology Conference to be organised by UNE in collaboration with Hunter New England Health (HNEH). The conference, on Thursday 8 May, was held during Heart Week (4-10 May).

It was titled “Diversity in Rural Cardiology”, and both Professor Victor Minichiello, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of UNE’s Faculty of The Professions, and Dr Nigel Lyons, Chief executive of HNEH, emphasised in their opening remarks the significance of the word “rural”, with its implication of “limited access to resources”. Professor Minichiello recognised the amount of “excellent work” being done by rural health workers under sometimes “very difficult circumstances”, while Dr Lyons looked to a future in which there would be even more emphasis on prevention – and on “primary care in community settings” – in rural practice.

“The participants included doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, ambulance workers, and students,” said Dr Penny Paliadelis, a Senior Lecturer in Nursing at UNE and one of the organisers of the conference. “The presentations dealt with clinical aspects of coronary care as well as the experiences of rural health workers and patients. The conference provided the participants with a networking opportunity, and practical information that they have been able to take back to their workplaces.”

Jane Kerr, Northern Area Cardiovascular Disease Coordinator for HNEH and also a member of the organising committee, said a major focus of the conference had been on rehabilitation – an important aspect of coronary care services throughout the HNEH area. The photograph displayed here shows Jane Kerr (right) and Dr Penny Paliadelis at the conference.

One of the speakers, Dr Melissa Doohan, a cardiologist from Sydney Adventist and Royal North Shore Private Hospitals, spoke about heart disease as it affects Australian women – among whom, she said, it was “just as common as among men, if not more common”. “And although the incidence of heart disease in Australia is falling,” she added, “it is falling less in women than in men.” Dr Doohan said that many women suffered from symptoms such as breathlessness without realising they could be at risk of a heart attack.

In considering current and future trends, the conference heard that the recent establishment of a cardiac catheterisation laboratory in Tamworth had helped to save lives locally, but that the increasing incidence of some risk factors – such as obesity – at a national level posed threats for the future.