Being on the NEGPRN steering committee, working occasionally as a locum in the New England and taking a hands-on role in our research projects affords podiatrist Dr Peta Tehan important insights into the challenges of rural healthcare. It also
inspires her to seek practical solutions.
Peta grew up in regional Queensland and her first job was in a rural centre in the heart of the state. “It was there that I was first exposed to the impacts of limited access to medical care and specialists, and the complications that come with that,”
“More recently, working in Tamworth at the high-risk foot clinic, I’ve had patients travel eight hours for an appointment that lasts half an hour. Often they will also need an X-ray and a prescription and may even have to return a few days’ later. If they need more specialised treatment, that usually means a trip to Newcastle of Sydney, with all the travel and accommodation and logistics that involves. How is that equitable?”
Removing some of the barriers to treatment now drives Peta to research and promote better options for rural and regional patients. “It’s something I’m passionate about,
to offer all patients equity of experience,” she says.
And, dealing as she so often does with diabetes-related foot ulcerations, it can be a matter of life or limb. “The more barriers there are in the way, the harder it is to
convince patients to pursue treatment, and that has contributed to high rates
of amputation,” Peta says.
Embracing Telehealth is one simple solution.
“There is so much scope for Telehealth, especially in smaller communities with nurse-led clinics,” Peta says. “We might not be able to have a vascular surgeon in every town, but we can get them on the end of a Telehealth consultation, to help us
triage and manage patients,” Peta says. “Getting specialist support over secure
technology can also enable us to fast-track treatment when intervention is
required. It’s all about setting up the right clinical pathways and
infrastructure, and that’s where GPs can play a really important role.”
When she’s not supporting the work of the NEGPRN, Peta works at the John Hunter Hospital high-risk foot clinic and as a senior lecturer at the University of Newcastle podiatry program. We’re very lucky to have her on our committee.