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16 December, 2020

Mareeba endoscopy service turns one.

The Mareeba Hospital endoscopy service turned one-year-old last month and since opening 389 Mareeba residents have used the service.

By Phil Brandel

L-R Robyn George Nurse Unit Manager, Debra Whittaker Nurse Practitioner Endoscopist, Ross Clarksmith Director of Nursing/Facility Manager Mareeba Hospital

The Mareeba Hospital endoscopy service turned one year old last month and since opening 389 Mareeba residents have used the service. 

An endoscopy/colonoscopy allows endoscopists to see the lining of a patient’s oesophagus, stomach or colon. 

Mareeba Director of Nursing and Midwifery and Facility Manager, Ross Clarksmith, said that in the past year, the Mareeba service has detected five colorectal cancers and four upper gastrointestinal cancers. 

“We are certainly seeing a good use of the service here in Mareeba,” he said. 

“Due to the National Bowel Cancer Screening expansion, demand for endoscopy services is growing  across the State.” 

The Mareeba endoscopy service links in with referrals from the National Bowel Screening Program and  referrals from GPs. 

Nurse Unit Manager Robyn George said that Mareeba residents had embraced the service.  

“Our patients have been very well prepared. Over 98% of them have followed the bowel preparation instructions, which exceeds the state target of 95%,” said Ms George. 

“The clinical team is led by Nurse Practitioner Debra Whittaker who is one of the first nurse practitioner endoscopists in Australia.

“We also engage with Indigenous Liaison Officers (ILOs) from Mareeba Community Health as well as  the private Mulungu health service to improve the experience of patients identifying as Aboriginal  and/or Torres Strait Islander.”

Mr Clarksmith said the service helps to screen and diagnose gastrointestinal tract diseases such as cancers and  abnormalities of the digestive tract.

“If abnormal areas are seen, biopsies (tissue samples) can be taken for testing,” he said. 

“Regular screening tests, such as colonoscopy, can help early detection and intervention before  abnormal cells can develop into cancer.

“This service means we can provide safe and sustainable care closer to home for Mareeba residents.” 

The endoscopy service opened the same time as the upgraded operating theatre which provides  general surgery, dental surgery, and birthing services. The endoscopy services were also enhanced with the expanded Medical Imaging Department at  the Mareeba Hospital in September 2020 which has new state-of-the-art CT scanner. 

“For our endoscopy patients, it means they get their scans locally and it helps clinicians diagnose  illnesses more quickly and conveniently for the patient,” said Mr Clarksmith. 

“The enhanced services at Mareeba Hospital align with the Health Service strategy to increase the self-sufficiency of major rural sites.” 

Residents are encouraged to take part in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program or see their GP for advice. Eligible Australians from 50 to 74 years of age are sent a free, simple test that is done at home.


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