Health care at elite level

Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - - NEWS - KIRSTIN PAYNE

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.


Pic­ture: SUP­PLIED

Dr Martin Wullschleger, di­rec­tor of trauma ser­vices at the Gold Coast Univer­sity Hospi­tal.

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