It's been a long wait, but Illawarra patients will soon receive complex cardiothoracic treatment close to home, with the region's first specialist Cardiothoracic Surgery Service to open this year.
Patients will be able to access an extensive range of specialist cardiovascular and thoracic care when the new service opens in the second half of 2021.
Both public and private patients will benefit under the partnership between the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District and Wollongong Private Hospital, to be announced on Monday.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said recruitment would soon start for a team of cardiothoracic surgeons, anaesthetists, intensivists and cardiologists to deliver "world class cardiothoracic care".
"The local health district has partnered with Wollongong Private Hospital to provide a top quality service to local cardiothoracic patients so they will no longer have to travel to Sydney for treatment," he said.
Cardiothoracic surgery is the field of medicine involved in surgical treatment of organs inside the thoracic cavity - generally treatment of conditions of the heart (heart disease) and lungs (lung disease).
It was back in 2013 that a community campaign for a cardiothoracic surgeon for Wollongong Hospital first began to take shape, led by Illawarra Thoracic Committee chair Fay Campbell.
In April 2014, then NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner told parliament she anticipated that a local thoracic service would commence following the commissioning of the new Illawarra Elective Surgical Services Centre - which opened in December 2015.
However in July 2016, Ms Skinner said a cardiothoracic service would be instead be established at Wollongong Private Hospital, but that didn't eventuate. Until now.
Kiama MP Gareth Ward MP said he was thrilled that the new service would cater for all cardiothoracic patients in the region.
"Cardiovascular disease is on the rise in this region, partly because of the ageing population," he said.
"So I'm pleased that all Illawarra residents will soon have access to this specialist service close to home.
"Not only will they be able to access cardiothoracic surgery, but also preventative treatment for cardiovascular disease."
ISLHD chief executive Margot Mains said the district was "absolutely delighted" to team up with Wollongong Private to provide extensive cardiothoracic services.
During the COVID pandemic Wollongong Private Hospital has stepped in to help the public system get through the elective surgery backlog created by the temporary shutdown of some elective procedures, and chief executive officer Steven Rajcany said he welcomed this new partnership.
"We are always looking for ways to improve the quality of life for those in our community, which is why we are excited about this collaboration between public and private healthcare sectors in the Illawarra," he said.
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