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Patients with devastating spinal cord injuries living in regional Victoria, Tasmania and southern New South Wales will get access to specialist treatment through Skype and FaceTime thanks to a Slater and Gordon research grant.

Slater and Gordon has awarded its first Victorian grant from its Health Projects and Research Fund to the Victorian Spinal Cord Service (VCSC), part of Austin Health based at Heidelberg.

The VCSC will receive $22,500 to fund its E-therapy – taking the treatment to the patient pilot telehealth program, which will deliver one-on-one treatment through Skype and FaceTime to patients with quadriplegia living in regional Victoria and interstate.

The VSCS has in the past two years led the way on upper limb nerve transfer surgery, operating on around 20 quadriplegic patients from areas around Victoria, Tasmania and also Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane. The centre also has outreach services in Adelaide and Launceston.

Slater and Gordon’s $2 million philanthropic venture funds innovative research projects that have the potential to improve the treatment of people with asbestos-related diseases, occupation-caused cancers, or who live with a significant disability as a consequence of a catastrophic injury.

Austin Health Occupational Therapist Cathy Cooper said she was thrilled her grant applicant had been successful as the funds would help VCSC narrow a growing service gap.

“More than half of our spinal cord injury patients live outside of metropolitan Melbourne and travel is often logistically very difficult for them,” Ms Cooper said.

“We have started using Skype and FaceTime with a small number of cases, and the feedback from patients is that it has helped keep them motivated and reduced their anxiety.

“Expanding this program will allow us to help more patients by providing them with specialist treatment in their own homes or communities.”

Slater and Gordon General Manager Personal Injury (Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania) Janine Gregory said VCSC was a worthy recipient and the grant would allow the organisation to continue to improve the lives of people with serious spinal cord injuries.

“VCSC provides extensive support to patients from Hobart to Mildura, as well their families, their carers and their local therapists,” Ms Gregory said.

“This grant will provide funding for an occupational therapist and support clerk to provide specialist treatment through the use of digital technology.

“It is important that as a leading personal injury firm we show our support for the work that healthcare professionals are doing in helping our clients rebuild their lives,” she said.

Slater and Gordon’s Health Projects Research Fund also supports education initiatives and information sharing projects among medical and other health professionals.

Applications for grants of between $2000 and $25,000 will be distributed as part of a $2 million philanthropic program in Australia and the UK.

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