Western Qld opens its doors to diabetes professionals

Western Queensland Primary Health Network (WQPHN) and CheckUP are funding Diabetes Queensland to help clients and health professionals get regular access to the latest diabetes care and treatments.

People living in Western Queensland have the lowest life expectancy in the state and are 1.9 times more likely to die from diabetes compared with people living elsewhere in Queensland.

This partnership has developed fly in-fly out or, in some locations, drive in-drive out services that see diabetes educators regularly visiting Roma, Charleville, Mount Isa, Cloncurry, St George and Cunnamulla.

Credentialled Diabetes Educators (CDEs) and Accredited Practicing Dietitians Polly Antees, Helen d’Emden and Helen Jackson, and CDEs and Registered Nurses Laura Zimmerman and Nicole McClure, are delivering the services.

“Even though I grew up on the coast, all I wanted to do was work out West,” Polly said, who has worked in remote regions for most of her career.

“Working as a health professional in these areas is so rewarding.

“Regional Queenslanders are stoic so they don’t tend to pay too much attention to small changes in their health. With diabetes, that can lead to serious complications.

“One inexpensive lifestyle change that we can talk with them about, such as reducing their alcohol intake, can make a world of difference.”

Polly tells the story of one client who refused to tell her how much he drank because he didn’t want to lie to her.

“I suggested he halved his current intake. The next time I saw him he said he was feeling a lot better every morning and had more energy to go for a walk.

“He’d also lost 10cm from his waist.”

Polly said their team know Western Queenslanders won’t be told what to do.

“We just suggest ideas so they can modify their lifestyle to improve their blood glucose levels.”

The visiting CDEs are working from general practices, which makes it easier for patients to see diabetes educators, while connecting local health professionals with the visiting Diabetes Queensland team.

WQPHN Diabetes Program Manager, Kathleen O’Hara, said the expertise of Diabetes Queensland educators is helping people living with diabetes in Western Queensland while also providing support and training to local health practitioners.

“We are working to get the right health professional to the right patient at the right time to avoid people developing complications.

“We want to increase the opportunity for people with diabetes to see a diabetes educator in their local community.”

Polly tells the story of one client who drove 400km to Mount Isa to see the diabetes educator. The station he worked on allowed him to have the day off to “pop into town” for the visit.

The result?

“This client now has a phone consult once a fortnight and sends his blood glucose levels via text messages to the Diabetes Queensland CDE for review,” Polly said.

“He now combines his visit to town with seeing his GP, CDE and going to the pathology lab, all in the one building.

“The GP and CDE discuss changes and possible treatment options before the client drives 400km home.”

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