Thursday 26 June 2014

Hansard of the Legislative Council


Member for Rosevears – HEART HEALTH

Mr Finch (Rosevears)- Mr President, it is good to be here - in fact, it is good to be anywhere.

Members laughing.

Mr FINCH - I thank the member for Hobart for presenting my special interest speech three weeks ago when I was unable to be here. It was interesting because it was about organ donations - not that anyone would want mine. I point out that I am now an organ donor.

I want to give a warning but also some advice in light of the experience I had on that Thursday morning. Because of some brilliant medical advances over the past few years I am now fit, although I have a little wire-mesh in one of my arteries, known as a stent, and I have learnt to love stents.

There are a good number of Tasmanians who are walking around with stents in their bodies and without them they would be dead. I consider myself fit, I am looking to build up my fitness again. I intend to walk a lot and go to the gym, as I did on that last sitting day earlier this month.

On Thursday 5 June I went to the gym in Parliament and then went back to Berriedale. I was aware of a tightening in my chest and phoned my GP in Launceston. He is a very cautious and prudent doctor - in fact a year ago he sent me off to have a test for shortness of breath and my red complexion, but nothing showed up in those tests. He said, 'Don't muck around, Kerry, be on the safe side, call an ambulance immediately'. I did so; it came quickly - although I argue that up‑to‑date sat navs should be in all Tasmanian ambulances. They were searching for me a little bit. I could see them driving past, up and down streets. I did not want to get too excited. The quicker the response the more lives will be saved.

I had a highly efficient and calming paramedic who put me through a series of tests and then said that we had to go to the Accident and Emergency section of the Royal Hobart Hospital. I thought it was a hell of a fuss, as men do, but I would follow instructions. The A&E section was alerted by radio and was ready to deal with me when I arrived. I was very calm because everybody else was. I did not get excited at all but I was informed on Monday that it was quite an emergency and everybody was prepared - A&E and the surgeon were on standby.

Not many people know about the brilliant techniques that save lives in cardiac units, but they should. I will explain the technique briefly - a wire is pushed up my arterial system through my wrist, although there is an option to go in through the groin, but I preferred the wrist. A narrowed artery was found, I thought, near my heart, which is why I was quite relaxed about the whole procedure. On Monday when I went to the rehabilitation area at the LGH, they told me the artery was inside my heart, so the stent is placed inside my heart. The technique is to artificially pop open the narrowed artery by inserting a stent. A stent is a little mesh metal tube, it is only about 2 mm wide with a balloon inside it and that is pushed up the wire with a catheter tube. The balloon is then expanded. It widens the mesh of the stent so it fits the width of the artery but because it is quite strong against the artery and it melds into whatever was gunking the place up like cholesterol and all that sort of stuff, it sits there and is held in the artery.

When it is withdrawn, everything else comes out but the stent is then left in place. Then I was into the ward and I must say the attention was quite fantastic, being checked on every 15 minutes for 24 hours. I am really grateful to the brilliant professionals at the Royal Hobart Hospital, the interns, the nurses, and the people in accident and emergency. The staff are highly trained, sympathetic and very professional and, of course, thank you to Dr Philip Roberts‑Thomson, a name I know because his father has quite a famous name - Harold Roberts-Thomson.

Ms Forrest - From my electorate.

Mr FINCH - Is that right? Yes, the competing electorates here today. But Philip Roberts‑Thomson was very calming, very professional and I owe a debt of gratitude to him. This is why Australia wants an adequately funded public health system because it can save your life.

By way of example, last Thursday I had a call from England. I was over there in the early 1970s and I knocked about with a chap called Kevin Gannon, a good mate of mine, and we supported Manchester United for a year and a half all over England. Kevin works at the Wigan Infirmary. He came home feeling unwell, as I did, and spoke to his wife. She said to get an ambulance and he said, 'No bother, love. Don't worry, love, I'll be right, I'll be right'. She said, 'Well you must make an appointment with the doctor', which was not a problem because he worked at the hospital. He died overnight from heart complications, simply because he did not take that precaution - he was 63. The message is: do not muck around, call an ambulance. It is what they are there for.

I was speaking with a friend of yours, Mr President - Graeme Lynch from the Heart Foundation. He said that nearly 10 000 people present to our public hospital emergency departments every year with warning signs of heart attack, which are then diagnosed as heart-related conditions. Fifty-six per cent arrive by ambulance and 44 per cent get there through other non-urgent means. But close to 30 per cent are under 50 years of age. The Launceston Cardiac Unit says that very rarely is there a false alarm when people come because of a concern about tingling in the arms or pain in the chest or in the neck - very rarely is it a false alarm.

My advice - if you are 45 years or over, as some of you are, if you are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, ask your GP for a heart health check to find out your risk of having a heart attack. Another word of advice - we are killing ourselves with our knives and forks. We have to lessen our portions of food, and be very careful about what we eat. You might be surprised to learn that heart disease is the biggest single killer of Australian women. And men, too. I did not get that information from Graeme, I will speak to him about that, it is discrimination against men.

Most Tasmanians can be at risk of a heart attack - we must recognise the symptoms and above all, act quickly. Again, it is good to be here.

Ms Forrest - Hear, hear.

Mr Mulder - Your time has expired.