AN anonymous donor has given $5.2 million to the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) to improve access to high quality health care for vulnerable and remote communities across NSW.
The philanthropic funding, announced on Tuesday, is the largest single donation in HMRI’s history.
It will forge an alliance between HMRI, NSW Ambulance and the Hunter New England Health district to boost emergency out-of-hospital treatment and telehealth care for patients for the next five years.
“It represents a transformational step towards delivering world-leading, out-of-hospital care, particularly to those living outside metropolitan areas,” HMRI director, Professor Michael Nilsson said.
The funding would “level the field” for people living in rural areas by providing timely access to world-class clinical services via telehealth, and maintaining the skills and confidence of paramedics throughout the state via extra simulation education and training.
“A person’s postcode should never impact on their medical care,” Professor Nilsson said.
“We can address the current imbalance by mobilising medicine and furnishing regional communities with more sophisticated telehealth technologies.”
Professor Nilsson said the donor, who wished to remain anonymous, was “highly motivated” to improve access to high quality care, particularly for vulnerable and remote communities.
The funding would enable NSW Ambulance to upgrade its facilities with new education equipment, and develop learning modules for paramedics. Additionally, it would fund a dedicated research fellowship to offer “vigorous evaluation” of the models of care being developed to inform future healthcare policies.
Allan Loudfoot, the senior assistant commissioner of NSW Ambulance, said the project was ultimately aimed at providing better clinical outcomes for patients throughout the entire state.
Mr Loudfoot said paramedics working in rural areas may not have as many opportunities to deal with complex medical cases.
But having the opportunity to practice a range of scenarios using advanced technology simulation manikins, which will be rolled out to every ambulance station in NSW under the project, would build their skills and confidence.
Jane Gray, executive director of research, innovation and partnerships for Hunter New England Health, expressed her “sincere and heartfelt gratitude” to the anonymous donor.
“It is extraordinarily generous, but also a rare example of humility,” she said.
“Wonderful healing takes place in hospitals, but the truth is, a stay in hospital disrupts daily life for patients and families alike – especially families in our district, who can travel eight hours to receive specialist care at John Hunter Hospital. That’s why keeping people well, and out of hospital, is part of the vision.
“That’s why we invest so much in telehealth, and models of care that help people stay as close to home as possible.
“With a clever use of technology, we have made it possible for people in the farthest reaches of our district to see expert specialists. We have people seeing neurologists, psychologists, endocrinologists, and more, all through the magic of telehealth.”