NSW’s first in-house 3D printing lab at Wollongong Private Hospital

INNOVATIVE: Anatomics executive chairman Paul D'Urso holding a custom 3D printed partial skull implant at the Innovation Hub, part of Wollongong Private Hospital, on Tuesday. Picture: Robert Peet

INNOVATIVE: Anatomics executive chairman Paul D'Urso holding a custom 3D printed partial skull implant at the Innovation Hub, part of Wollongong Private Hospital, on Tuesday. Picture: Robert Peet

The Turnbull government has been urged to step aside from “distracting” issues and update health care regulations to assist medical manufacturing technology, as the state’s first hospital 3D printing lab opens in Wollongong.

The “Innovation Hub” at Wollongong Private Hospital is the brainchild of vascular surgeon Dr Arthur Stanton and will bring together researchers, clinicians and medical industry experts to find new solutions to surgical problems.

Already signed up to be part of the lab is Melbourne-based company Anatomics, who make products such as 3D printed hip replacements, and are used by surgeons in more than 30 different countries.

We’re just asking the government to do their job which is understand this new technology. - Paul D'Urso

Executive chairman Paul D’Urso was excited with the prospect of Illawarra surgeons “playing” in the world leading facility but said the federal government needs to do more to assist.

“Every time I want to make a [custom implant] I have to write to the health fund and explain why that’s better than an off-the-shelf implant,” Mr D’Urso said.

He said despite custom 3D printed implants making surgery more efficient and cost effective, as well being more beneficial for the patient, the current rules “invented last century” prevented innovation.

“If it was cricket they’d change it in a flash, they’d say ‘everyone’s got to wear a helmet now’ because someone got hit in the head with a cricket ball and died,” Mr D’Urso said.

“We’re not asking them for money, we’re just asking the government to do their job which is understand this new technology and figure out how to regulate it … and let it be reimbursed for what we’re doing.”

The Hub will also house a 3D printing lab run by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) and the Australian National Fabrication Facility. 

“This hub brings … experts together to help clinicians turn their ideas about how to improve patient care into real-world devices,” said ACES director, Professor Gordon Wallace.

ACES already works with a number of different partners nationally in developing such things as scaffolds for cartilage regeneration and nerve and muscle repair.

“These are existing projects and we’re hoping this facility will help local clinicians get involved with those projects and also identify new projects that are a particular challenge for the local clinical community,” Professor Wallace said.

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