A telehealth speech pathology program for children on the Western Downs is being expanded to four new schools following its successful introduction at Tara Shire State College last year.
The Health-e-Regions project is led by The University of Queensland’s Centre for Online Health (COH) with clinical services provided by UQ’s Telerehabilitation Clinic (TRC).
COH Deputy Director Anthony Smith said students at Wandoan, Miles and Chinchilla State Schools and St Joseph’s Catholic School in Tara will now benefit from allied health services.
“As well as speech therapy, occupational therapy will be offered to children in need of support at all five schools, and next year will see the inclusion of physiotherapy and hearing testing,” Associate Professor Smith said.
“The expansion is an important step in providing rural families with more convenient access to specialist healthcare.”
QGC is providing more than $2.4 million over five years for Health-e-Regions. Since 2013 the program has connected hundreds of rural families to urban health professionals through telehealth facilities at GP clinics and in aged care.
QGC Vice President Tony Nunan said the company is committed to improving liveability in the Western Downs by making specialist health services more accessible to regional communities.
“QGC is excited about this new stage in the partnership, with potential to boost students’ health, wellbeing and educational outcomes,” Mr Nunan said.
The project has been helping Western Downs’ residents to connect with health professionals in Brisbane since 2013, through telehealth accessed by GP clinics and public health and aged care facilities.
Associate Professor Smith said delivering services directly into the schools involved a collaborative effort with the Department of Education and Training (DET) and Diocese of Toowoomba: Catholic Schools Office (TCSO).
Chinchilla State Primary School Principal Dale Magner said the service benefits staff as well as students.
“Our staff receive specialised speech and OT training so they can integrate techniques into the classroom, providing additional strategies to assist children reach their full potential,” Mr Magner said.
TCSO team leader Loretta McGill said the program will be highly valued by families at Tara.
“St Joseph’s is a small school and due to Tara’s remoteness it is difficult for parents and their children access services,” Ms McGill said.
“The telehealth program builds on existing services provided by TCSO.”
Clinics are being delivered by fourth year students as their final clinical placements, widening their skills and increasing the use and acceptance of telehealth with the next generation of therapists.