Cardiology team providing vital care in the APY Lands

Improving the patient journey and experience for people in the APY Lands with cardiac condition Rheumatic Heart Disease is the focus for Associate Professor Chris Zeitz and the cardiology team.

While common cardiac diseases are frequently encountered, there is a particular burden of Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) in the APY community that was previously under recognised.

For patients who need to travel to receive cardiac services, it’s a three day round-trip on a bush bus to Alice Springs. The trip isn’t possible for some because of the health risks.

So for two weeks a year, A/Prof Zeitz, a cardiac nurse and cardiac technician visit the APY Lands to see more than 100 patients and provide a direct link for those who need to come to Adelaide for care.

Known cases of RHD on the Lands have increased from 26 in 2012 to 112 in 2018, with almost half requiring and receiving preventative medication.

This therapy vital to ensure that repeated episodes of acute rheumatic fever are prevented, as it is these repeated infections that cause permanent damage to heart valves and the need for heart valve surgery.

Since the team began visiting the Lands, compliance with preventative therapy has increased from 19 per cent to 75 per cent. For the remainder, regular monitoring is required to ensure the valve disease is stable.

For the past seven years the team has continued to work closely with Nganampa Health Council to engage with the local community.

The partnership enables regular and routine communication between CALHN, Nganampa and the RHD registry to help manage individual patients.