Women in rural and remote areas face significant barriers to accessing specialist care during pregnancy. We are overcoming the 'tyranny of distance' for high risk women in remote areas, including live telehealth consultations with the Northern Territory.
Wednesday9.30am - 12.30pm
Pregnant women in rural areas have extremely limited access to specialist care and frequently find it impossible to travel interstate to tertiary centres. With a population of only 244,000 people spread over a land area of 1.4 million km2, the Northern Territory (NT) has the lowest population density of any Australian state or territory. The delivery of antenatal care to NT women with high risk pregnancies is extremely challenging.
Indigenous women in remote areas are particularly affected by these barriers, with all metrics of Indigenous health outcomes in mothers and babies lagging far behind that of other Australians. The Northern Territory has highest perinatal mortality rate in the country. A woman in NT has double the risk of stillbirth or neonatal deaths compared to a woman living in Victoria.
"Developing a telehealth service with Darwin has been one of the most exciting initiatives of Mercy Perinatal this year," says Dr Alexis Shub. "By providing tertiary support for women in the Northern Territory, we are working to ‘bridge the gap’ in perinatal outcomes for women living in the most parts of Australia."
We are overcoming the 'tyranny of distance' for high risk women with live telehealth consultations with the Northern Territory in partnership with the Royal Darwin Hospital. In the company of her own doctor and sonographer at the Royal Darwin Hospital, women can have a virtual consultation with Mercy Perinatal via a high quality video link. We support the clinical team at the Royal Darwin Hospital by providing specialist interpretation of real-time ultrasound imaging, patient counselling and pregnancy management. These sessions run simultaneously with our Fetal Medicine Clinic, so that any member of our multidisciplinary fetal team are available to provide additional advice if needed.
For clinicians - who can be referred?
For clinicians in the Northern Territory, referrals are co-ordinated through Royal Darwin Hospital. The Mercy Perinatal Telemedicine service provides diagnostic advice and counselling for women with fetal structural or genetic abnormalities, where there are concerns about fetal growth or possible consideration for fetal therapy. This is a consultative service only, with open pathways for ongoing care. If delivery in a centre with tertiary paediatric medical or surgical services is required, we welcome families to Melbourne but would encourage them to relocate to a centre closest to them or where they have best family support.