A push to have critical medical tests performed locally in rural areas has been credited with saving a young Wellsford woman’s life.
Last year, the Waitemata District Health Board introduced a Rural Point of Care Testing service (R-POCT) into all rural general practices.
The service provides equipment to rural practices to test for suspected heart attacks, blood clots and blood infections, and enables them to get results within 10 minutes – helping to clarify the best course of action almost immediately.
That speedy turnaround proved critical for Courtney Mason, 19, who turned up to the Coast to Coast Health Centre in Wellsford complaining of sudden shortness of breath, weakness and fatigue.
She was seen by Dr Neil Anderson, who suspected she might have a heart condition. He decided to take a blood sample, even though Courtney had undergone a blood test just a week earlier, which had shown her haemoglobin (red blood cell) level was normal.
But within minutes, the fresh test established that was no longer the case. Courtney had only half the haemoglobin level she should have, indicating something was seriously wrong.
Dr Anderson acted quickly to get Courtney transferred to North Shore Hospital, where further tests revealed she had an actively bleeding stomach tumour. She received treatment and is on her way to making a full recovery.
“I feel very grateful to everyone involved in my care and recovery,” Courtney says.
But Dr Anderson maintains Courtney had a close shave.
“Courtney came in at 5pm that day and if we had taken her blood and sent it away for testing, she may have died before the results came in,” he says.
The Waitematā DHB Laboratories team oversees and manages the R-POCT service to ensure that quality assurance and control measures are consistent across all general practices.
Waitemata DHB chief executive officer Dr Dale Bramley says the aim of R-POCT is part of the DHBs strategy of investing in primary care to ensure patients have access to the healthcare they need, when they need it and closer to home.
“By providing these services directly in our practices, a hospital admission can often also be avoided, which is a win-win for patients and their families, as well as reducing demand on our hospital,” he says.