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8 April 2010
A Deakin University research project has started in south-west Victoria to find out why people who suffer major traumatic head injuries have better outcomes in city areas than in country regions.
Ben Fisk, a PhD student with Deakin’s Centre for Rural Emergency Medicine based in Warrnambool, said there was a common belief that people injured in metropolitan areas fared better than those with comparable injuries in country areas.
“Anecdotally there seems to be different outcomes between city and country regions so our first task is to identify and analyse the existing data to see if that is the case,” Mr Fisk said.
The research will consider the total range of traumatic head injuries from motor vehicle accidents and home falls to farm and industrial accidents.
Mr Fisk said his research would investigate and report on possible factors which could influence the apparent imbalance.
“The most obvious would seem to be the time delay in getting injured people to treatment but there hasn’t been a study into the whole situation which will make the findings important for future planning.
“The goal for this year is to create a picture of what is happening in western Victoria and compare it to Melbourne.”
Mr Fisk comes from a paramedic background and has worked with the Victorian Ambulance Service in Geelong and Warrnambool for the past nine years. He hopes to use his research to learn more about pre-hospital management systems and how rural and regional people access and utilise ambulance services.
The impact of an emergency rescue helicopter in south-west Victoria will be considered in the three-year study. “The medical retrieval helicopter provides an excellent service, and is a real win for the region, but there may not be enough data in the south-west area yet to judge what impact it is having on this patient group,” Mr Fisk said.
The research will also look at the processes when head injured patients are taken to small country hospitals.
The research has been funded by the Windermere Foundation which provides special grants for the development, introduction and/or evaluation of new practices, models and interventions to improve health in country Victoria.
Deakin University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor (Rural and Regional) Professor Sue Kilpatrick and the Director of the Centre Rural Emergency Medicine Tim Baker are joint supervisors of the research.
Deakin’s Centre for Rural Emergency Medicine (CREM) is a joint initiative between the Department of Human Services, Portland District Health, South West Healthcare (Warrnambool), Alcoa of Australia and the Deakin Medical School.
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