Geriatric help is at hand
LISMORE Base Hospital and the Northern NSW Local Health District have just appointed a new specialist in health issues common to the elderly.
Dr Alison Semmonds, a geriatrician, was chosen to join fellow specialist Dr Hugh Fairfull-Smith in extending the district's geriatric services.
Geriatricians are experts in the management of multiple ailments common to the elderly, including mobility and memory disorders such as Parkinson's Disease and dementia in combination with heart and kidney problems.
Currently their services are in serious demand in the district, with a six-month waiting list.
Dr Semmonds came from a six-year stint at a northern Sydney hospital where she was well-established.
The two specialists will divide their time between clinical work at both LBH and Ballina Hospital assisting patients with acute ailments, as well an outreach service.
"Because of the increase in the elderly population there's a lot more people with early dementia and dementia, and the GPs need our assistance with managing those patients," Dr Semmonds said. "There's also dementia medications which can help for some people, but a geriatrician has to see those people first before they can have a tablet.
"A lot of the community want those medications, but there's a bit of a waiting list."
In March, Dr Semmonds will help implement a program to improve the expertise and facilities of the Base Hospital's Emergency Department in caring for the elderly.
Then by early 2014, a 12-bed Geriatric Evaluation and Management Unit (GEM) will be set up to focus on elderly patients with acute conditions requiring specialist care.
When she's not tending to the elderly, Dr Semmonds said she hoped to develop her fledgling surfing skills.
"I received an eight-foot malibu for a Christmas present, and I've already been able to stand up twice," she said.
In April Dr Semmonds will travel to Cambodia for two weeks with International Child Care Australia to run medical clinics in rural villages.