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World-first truck and trailer combination unveiled

Brisbane-based Heart of Australia has officially launched its biggest and boldest mobile “clinic-on-wheels”, a 34-wheel, 56-tonne truck-and-trailer combination that houses the world’s first battery-powered CT scanner.

As a proud supporter of this lifesaving initiative, NTI was excited to attend the recent unveiling.

HEART 5, a brand-new DAF XF towing a high-tech A-B trailer built by specialist engineering firm Varley Group, features multiple cardiology examination rooms capable of undertaking ECG’s, stress tests, and sleep, blood pressure and heart monitoring; as well as X-ray and CT scanner equipment.

The fifth truck in the Heart of Australia fleet features first-of-its-kind solar and battery technology built and designed to power the Philips CT scanner – not an easy task given its massive power requirements (albeit for around six seconds per scan). 

With no need for mains power, the truck can travel to the most remote communities, thereby improving accessibility to cardiac, respiratory and other health examinations.

With a $2 million contribution from the Queensland Government towards the build and operation, the new mobile clinic will focus particularly on the screening and early detection of mine dust lung diseases, such as black lung and silicosis, in Queensland’s regional mining communities. 

“What you are seeing is the world’s first battery operated CT scanner. And what that means is we don’t have to be parked somewhere we can plug it in. We don’t have to go to a hospital. It can literally go somewhere and park anywhere, whether that be in a mine site or a cane field, and you can walk up those stairs and get a CT scan done,” says Heart of Australia founder, Dr Rolf Gomes.

“Through the collaboration of the project partners, the Queensland Government, Philips and I-MED, this technology and innovation has been made possible.

“It’s bringing these vital radiology services which we rely so much on in medicine, which are now as commonplace as antibiotics, to people in these areas where previously they would have had to travel a long way to access these services.

“It’s very exciting and really the essence of what mobile health services are all about. These sort of services make healthcare so much more accessible for regional Australians. And if we can find things earlier, if we can treat things earlier, we will eventually keep people healthier and help them live a longer life. 

“That in itself is an amazing thing to be able to offer country people.”

Andreas Roost, Philip’s Sales Manager QLD and NT, says the project presented other significant technical challenges, especially minimising vibration on the road. Hence, the CT scanner is bolted to the chassis.

“To get the system in a position to be able to manage that vibration scenario we had to work with Rolf and his team to understand what that might look like … and based on that we had to make certain modifications to the system to be able to handle some of those vibrations,” he says.

“And obviously the way the system is mounted (to the trailer chassis) is quite different to how it would potentially be in a fixed environment, so we had to make some modifications around that as well.”

HEART 5 is the latest addition to a fleet that also includes four other custom-designed clinic-on-wheels, two driven by Kenworth K200’s, one by a DAF XF 530 prime mover and the third an Isuzu FSD260.

Since 2014, the Heart of Australia fleet has travelled more than 500,000 kilometres servicing towns from Stanthorpe in the south to Weipa in the far north and Winton in the west. Its medical specialists have seen more than 12,000 patients and saved more than 500 lives.

The purpose-built, self-sufficient trailers provide several private clinic rooms, a testing room and a reception area for patients. They are wheelchair accessible and fully-air-conditioned for comfort.

“With the launch of HEART 5, our CT truck, we will be finding more, treating more, and saving more lives,” Gomes adds.

“The fact that we can bring technology like this to people who might not have had access to it … or might have had access to it but maybe too late … that’s just awesome.”

On top of government funding, HEART 5 also received significant industry support from companies including Arrow Energy, Brown & Hurley, IOR Petroleum, Philips, and NTI.


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