Caring for stroke patients harder in the bush: new study

06 March 2020

New research from North West Tasmania has shone a light on the difficulties in caring for stroke patients in rural Australia.

The research, from the University of Tasmania’s College of Health and Medicine Dr Sarah Prior, Nicole Reeves and Professor Steven Campbell, and funded by the Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation, is featured in the February issue of the Australian Journal of Rural Health.

“Rural Australia faces unique challenges when it comes to health care and stroke services are no exception,” said the paper’s lead author Dr Sarah Prior.

“For a start it’s not always possible in rural Australia to have a full stroke unit available. This is despite the fact that we know that there are better clinical outcomes when stroke care is delivered in a dedicated stroke unit.

“There’s also the fact that medical specialist and generalist staff often aren’t available in rural areas. This is often because professional and social opportunities and professional development are lacking for rural health practitioners compared with their metropolitan counterparts.

“Part of the solution may be better use of virtual resourcing, health promotion and preventive health care. But a lot of what we need comes down to greater resources and increased access to clinical expertise in rural areas.”

CEO of the National Rural Health Alliance, which manages the Australian Journal of Rural Health, Dr Gabrielle O’Kane, said that this paper was an example of the sort of research that is vital to understanding the challenges faced by people in country Australia.

“To begin to address some of the health inequities faced by rural Australians we need to first understand some of the more complex challenges and how to address them.

“This sort of research not only highlights the challenges in rural Australia but also puts forward solutions to help address them. This well benefit health practitioners, policymakers, and patients.

“The Alliance is pleased to provide a platform for this important research through our journal and events such as our Rural and Remote Health Scientific Symposium, which will be held in Alice Springs in May this year.”

The abstract for the study is available here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/ajr.12579?af=R.