A LEGACY of improved health care is the gift from one local family to other Cairns families.
For Joyce Swinton, the gifts she has provided to the local community through the Far North Queensland Hospital Foundation, are her way of paying forward the money her daughter bequeathed her.
"My daughter Linda and her husband Harry Harris had a business in Gordonvale, and before she died she told me she wanted some of the money to go towards improving health in our local region," Mrs Swinton said.
She donated $250,000, which enabled the Foundation to buy an ultrasound simulator and this week she was present for the item's handover. It is believed this piece of equipment is the only one in northern Australia.
The simulator adds to the gift Mrs Swinton already has provided of $150,000 towards the second cardiac catheter laboratory and $150,000 towards the Liz Plummer Cancer Care Centre.
The ultrasound simulator will be used to educate and upgrade the training of hundreds of local doctors in conducting ultrasounds to diagnose trauma, obstetrics, lung and heart conditions. The simulator can "pretend" to be a patient with a particular medical condition – meaning the operator will know what to look for when they ultrasound real patients.
Cairns Hospital staff specialist emergency physician Dr Katrina Starmer said Mrs Swinton's gift was an incredibly generous donation.
"We are very grateful for this, because it will not only benefit doctors here in Cairns, but it will benefit rural GPs and small hospital doctors. It means the little places and patients from the bush are not left out," Dr Starmer said.
"Simulation-based training is very effective in medical education as it provides an environment for doctors to develop new skills without exposing patients to unnecessary risk. Having such a state-of-the-art piece of equipment as the Vimedix Ultraound Simulator will provide a foundation for improving staff skills and safety for patients and establish the position that the Cairns Hospital is becoming a leader in innovation and education," she said.
Mrs Swinton, whose granddaughter Emma died in her sleep aged 12, and who lost her husband and daughter to cancer, knows first-hand the pain of losing someone special.
"I've had heart treatment as well, that I had to go to Townsville for. It was very important to my daughter and therefore to me, that this money go towards helping local people, so I can rest easy now, knowing that's what I've done. I'm hoping that by telling my story, other people might think of their local health service if they have the ability to make a donation."
Foundation chairman Dr Ken Chapman said Mrs Swinton's donations were incredibly generous and a wonderful example of what could be achieved when the community worked together.
"We are ecstatic today that we can show Mrs Swinton this piece of equipment and she can see and hear the difference it will make to physicians and therefore to patients in our region," Dr Chapman said.
Photo: Mrs Swinton receives a kiss of appreciation from Dr Chapman and Dr Starmer.
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