Life-changing clinic on the Coast celebrates second birthday

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Caloundra Health Service

The only clinic of its kind north of Brisbane which allows vulnerable patients to access multidisciplinary treatment closer to home the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service (SCHHS) Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Clinichas celebrated its second birthday.

The clinic, led by SCHHS Neurology Staff Specialist Dr Antony Winkel, allows patients to access multidisciplinary care in a single coordinated clinic, resulting in patients spending less time visiting hospitals or travelling, and more time spent at home with loved ones.

MND is a terminal disease that causes rapidly progressive muscle weakness, with an average life expectancy of one to five years from time of diagnosis.

Currently there is no effective treatment to halt progression of the disease, but several effective interventions can enhance the quality of life of sufferers.

Dr Winkel, who identified the need for a ‘one-stop-shop’ for MND patients on the Sunshine Coast and surrounding regions, said the specialised clinic treated 25 to 35 patients at any one time, and was modelled off the success of other clinics in Australia.

“There is strong evidence in MND that a multidisciplinary clinic improves quality of life and quantity of life. This model is considered the gold standard for MND care, and we have been proud to bring this to our region.

“Prior to the opening of the MND Clinic, local patients would require travelling to numerous individual appointments, with specialists from neurology, respiratory, palliative care and multiple allied health services across the region, or they were forced to drive to Brisbane to the MND clinics there. This placed a significant travel burden on patients with limited mobility and significant health problems.

“A single visit to our clinic takes the place of up to seven outpatient appointments for each patient. We also share strong links with community providers which allows us to intervene in a patient’s care earlier than would otherwise be possible and it’s very rare that any of our MND patients need to present to local emergency departments for symptom control—we can trouble-shoot and keep them at home for the most part.

“It’s wonderful to have celebrated our second birthday, as we’ve continued to see the clinic grow over the past couple of years.

"In terms of grand plans, I think there is a strong need for a similar multidisciplinary service throughout much of Neurology, as other debilitating disorders such as muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis and chronic epilepsy would all benefit from this ‘team approach’.

“We have such a strong team at SCHHS, we would love to be able to keep expanding our services to serve the needs of the community more and more effectively,” Dr Winkel said.

Ross’s story

Sunshine Coast resident Ross Humphreyes-Reid has been attending the clinic at Caloundra since it opened. He previously had to travel to Brisbane regularly for treatment for his Motor Neurone Disease.

“Having a clinic here in Caloundra is invaluable. I’m in a wheelchair now and it was getting too hard to travel to Brisbane regularly, and they were long and tiring trips. Now I can attend the clinic much closer to home, and I see a variety of specialists including a speech pathologist, dietitian, scientist, respiratory specialist, palliative care specialist and of course Dr Winkel,” Mr Humphreyes-Reid said.

Ross’s wife Robyn said: “It’s comforting for us to know where we have to go, that at the clinic they know us, and we know them, and it means you can be more real. If you’re feeling good, then that’s great, but you can also have a bad day too. It’s an illness where, more often than not, the patient is not feeling well.”