Health care at elite level
THE only hope for Gold Coasters needing lifesaving trauma surgery five years ago was a flight to Brisbane.
Today the region is home to the world-class Gold Coast University Hospital trauma team headed by Dr Martin Wullschleger.
Dr Wullschleger is accustomed to seeing people on the worst day of their lives, as they are rushed in with brutal, possibly life-threatening injuries.
The Swiss national’s passion for saving lives was discovered during his time as a young doctor on the ski fields of the Alps.
“Then I came to the Gold Coast University Hospital. It had just been built and was on the radar with other national major trauma centres,” Dr Wullschleger said.
“Before they opened the Gold Coast University Hospital people would have to go to Brisbane, and that would be if they would survive the transfer. When a patient comes in we can now work on people suffering major blood loss and trauma – when timing is most critical.
“Over 50 per cent of the patients we see are injured by an accident on the roads.”
Surgery is often an endurance test for Dr Wullschleger and his team. During the 6-10-hour-long surgeries he can often be seen sipping on chocolate milk through a straw to keep his energy up.
“You do sometimes get some downtime in between, when we don’t you can use straws. You work as long as it takes to make sure the patient is safe.”
Without the $1.76 billion hospital built in 2013, people such as Gold Coast tradie David Conway, who fell 20 metres from a building site on to concrete in July 2017, simply wouldn’t be here.
“We operated on his chest for about eight hours,” Dr Wullschleger said.
“It was certainly one of the most challenging surgeries I have done.”
Mr Conway, who had both legs amputated, had 37 surgeries and 82 litres of blood transfusions, and was in an induced coma for two months.
From a trauma nurse coordination model to a multidisciplinary medical-nursingallied health 24/7 facility, the trauma unit helps 1000 patients from the Gold Coast and northern NSW each year.
The department continues to expand and hopes to hire a second trauma surgeon, train others and continue its leading research in blood clotting.
“There is definitely worldclass care here for our patients,” Dr Wullschleger said.
DR MARTIN WULLSCHLEGER
Dr Martin Wullschleger, director of trauma services at the Gold Coast University Hospital.