“Bridging the Heart Gap” a telehealth pilot project in paediatric cardiac surgery in Queensland

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Queensland is one step closer to closing the gap on cardiac care for children thanks to the innovative pilot project ‘Bridging the Heart Gap’.

Children’s Health Queensland’s paediatric cardiac surgical team is partnering with Cairns Hospital’s paediatric cardiology team and the Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service Aboriginal Corporation in Yarrabah, to better support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and rural and remote children who need heart surgery.

Twelve-year-old Majiika from Thursday Island was one of the first patients to be referred to the Bridging the Heart Gap program. “Majiika’s heart condition was originally picked up by a group of paediatric cardiologists who had travelled to various communities across northern Queensland performing screening echocardiograms on children in schools,” Dr Ben Reeves, Paediatric Cardiologist in Cairns, said. It came as a bit of a surprise and shock to Majiika and her family,”.

“Children who need to travel to Brisbane for their heart surgery - and their families - naturally have lots of questions and are worried about what to expect,” Erin Ferguson, Cairns Hospital Rheumatic Heart Disease Clinical Nurse Consultant said. Before making the journey to Brisbane, Majiika and her mum Shirley, together with a nurse navigator from Thursday Island, were able to meet via telehealth with the QCH cardiac surgical team that would be responsible for her care.

Pictured (L-R): Dr Prem Venugopal (Director Paediatric Cardiac Surgery and Co-Chair of the QCCHC), Shirley (Mum), Majiika (client) and Jeanne McInnes (Paediatric Cardiac Surgical Care Coordinator)

“They were able to interact with the team, see their faces, and ask questions, as well as begin their preoperative education and preparation. All while being in a familiar healthcare setting with healthcare workers they knew and trusted,” Dr Prem Venugopal, Director Paediatric Cardiac Surgery and Co-Chair of the Queensland Childhood and Congenital Heart Collaborative (QCCHC), said.

“[It was] real helpful as it took the pressure off the unknown,” Shirley said. “[It was] good that we could meet you guys and see your faces before coming down,” Majiika said.

“This collaborative approach means the journey to surgery is smoother for children and their families because they know their treating team in advance and what to expect,” Dr Venugopal said.

In January, Majiika met with her treating team in Brisbane and underwent her procedure. She was able to return home soon after and has continued to progress well.

Bridging the Heart Gap will be piloted for 12 months to December 2023 and is an initiative of the QCCHC. The QCCHC functions under the auspices of the Queensland Cardiac Clinical Network and has strong ties to the Queensland Child and Youth Clinical Network.

For more information on the pilot please contact Jennifer Orchard, CNC, Cardiothoracic Surgical Services, via Queensland Health’s Outlook address book (internal access only) or email CEQ-Engage@health.qld.gov.au.

Last updated: 16 March 2023