Thursday 26 June 2014
Hansard of the Legislative Council
Rosevears – HEART HEALTH
Mr Finch (Rosevears)- Mr President, it is good to be here - in fact, it is good to be
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
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
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.