Successful summit provides a spotlight on regional issues

Successful summit provides a spotlight on regional issues

From Left: Duncan Wallace – SpinalCure Executive Director, Kylie Woolcock – Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association CEO, Greg Sam – Flying Doctor Service CEO , Dr Catherine Cosgrave – Cath Cosgrave Consulting CEO and Nick Lowther – ABC Western Plains Chief of Staff

Our Executive Director, Duncan Wallace took the stage as one of the keynote speakers at the Regional Development Australia’s 2024 Inland Growth Summit in Dubbo held 21-22 February 2024.  More than 200 people travelled from across the state to attend the two-day gathering, which focussed on the theme ‘People and Place’. The seventh summit of its kind, a diverse range of topics such as training and education, sustainability, remote health and economics were covered by the impressive lineup of speakers.

Duncan’s session shared insights into the challenges in accessing treatments faced by people with spinal cord injuries (SCI) living in regional and remote areas, where the per capita rate of injuries far exceeds our major cities. While there’s no definitive reason behind the stats, we suspect it’s the nature of the work in rural and regional areas that’s behind this. Methods to attract and retain healthcare professionals in the region was also discussed.

Spearheaded by SpinalCure and funded in partnership with The CatWalk Trust, the international eWALK trial led by Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) is underway testing non-invasive neurostimulation treatments. This is the world’s first gold-standard neurostimulation trial aiming to enhance standing and walking abilities in paraplegics who still possess some movement.

However, recruiting enough participants for the trial has been challenging. Duncan highlighted the financial burden, with approximate costs of $15,000 for individuals from regional areas to participate in the 12-week trial in Sydney. This duration not only affects the person but potentially their carer as well, as they would need to take time off work. Fortunately, those in NSW have access to the Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme to provide some financial assistance.

Executive Director, Duncan Wallace

The one thing Duncan wants is for people to have hope.

Just the night before, Duncan had received a heartbreaking phone call from a distressed father. His three-year-old daughter had become a paraplegic after a car crash. While Duncan couldn’t offer anything in terms of treatments, he made it clear that she should never be told she will never walk again.

“Improvements in function are now possible. We are taking the ‘un’ out of ‘unbelievable’. It wasn’t that long ago that people didn’t believe that was possible. Now it is, it’s just a matter of funding,” Duncan said.

Adding, “Through our work, SpinalCure is playing an important part in the global effort to find a cure for SCI, and we’re committed to ensuring the research we fund touches lives across Australia.”