News in brief: Trucks bring lung checks to regional Australia; People with asthma more susceptible to persistent COVID-19; Patient satisfaction remains high for hospital doctors

Trucks bring lung checks to regional Australia

Mobile X-Ray and CT scan services are being put on the road in regional Queensland to help improve detection rates of mine dust lung diseases such as black lung and silicosis, according to the Heart of Australia project.

The program, led by Dr Rolf Gomes, in conjunction with the Queensland government, is expanding its fleet of truck-based cardiology and radiology services to add a fifth vehicle that will provide chest imaging services in rural areas.

“HEART 5 breaks down the tyranny of distance, so if you do have a lung disease, we can find it early and quickly,” Dr Gomes said.

“The battery technology we have designed and built in Queensland to power the CT scanner means with HEART 5 we can do a CT parked on a mine site, and that is a world first.

Queensland Resources Minister Scott Stewart said the service would allow workers in rural areas to have the same access to lung imaging as people in cities.

“This means workers won’t have to travel as far to access highly specialised services, ensuring earlier detection and intervention in cases of mine dust lung diseases like black lung and silicosis,” he said

People with asthma “particularly susceptible” to protracted COVID-19

People with asthma commonly experience persisting COVID-19 symptoms, which often overlap and interact with the underlying respiratory disease, suggests new research published in the BMJ.

Using data from an online UK-wide survey of 4,500 people with asthma (median age 50-59 years) in October 2020, a research team that included Jennifer Quint, a Professor of Respiratory Epidemiology at the National Heart and Lung Institute and Honorary Consultant Physician in Respiratory Medicine at the Royal Brompton and Imperial College London NHS Foundation Trusts, carried out a mixed methods analysis of the characteristics and experience of those who had had COVID-19.

The results, published in BMJ Open Respiratory Research, indicated an increased use of inhalers and worse asthma management in asthma patients who had had COVID-19 versus those who hadn’t, and also showed highly variable rates of COVID-19 severity, duration and recovery.

More than half of the COVID-19 group reported having Long COVID, and were more likely than those without to describe their breathing as worse or much worse after initial illness (73.7% versus 34.8%, respectively), an increased inhaler use (67.8% vs 34.8%) or worse of much management of asthma (59.6% vs 25.6%).

Also, respondents “frequently reported that COVID-19 symptoms overlapped with their asthma, with COVID-19 often seen as causing a protracted asthma exacerbation. Many described COVID-19 as causing a worsening of asthma symptoms, but with additional features atypical of their normal condition,” the authors noted. This, they added, left individuals “struggling to understand their symptoms and how best to manage them”.

“These findings suggest that people with asthma may be particularly susceptible to protracted symptoms due to COVID-19, though this would require confirmation in further studies including non-asthmatic populations for comparison, they concluded. “Improving access to clinical evaluation and diagnostic services is required to improve understanding and management in this context and the heterogeneity of symptom severities and recovery trajectories underline the need for personalised approaches to assessment and management”.

Patient satisfaction remains high for hospital doctors

Patients’ satisfaction with the way they are treated by hospital doctors or specialists has remained during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the latest figures.

The 2022 Report on Government Services for public hospitals covering the period 2020-2021 shows that nationally, 91.8% of patients reported that doctors “always or often listened carefully to them and 93.2% always or often showed respect to them. Likewise, 90.3% of patients said doctors spent enough time with them.

The figures for 2020-21 were not significantly different from previous years.

However the report also showed that elective surgery waiting times increased significantly for public hospitals in 2020-21. Nationally, 50% cent of patients were admitted within 48 days (up from 39 days in 2019-20) and 90% of patients were admitted within 348 days (up from 281 days in 2019-20).


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