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Unique skills course gets wheelchairs spinning

18 February 2019

The Hon Luke Donnellan, Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, today officially opened a unique wheelchair skills course at Austin Health's Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre in Kew.

Austin Health's CEO, Sue Shilbury, said the wheelchair course gives patients the opportunity to practice their skills in a controlled environment and helps them prepare for situations they'll face in the community.

"The Victorian Spinal Cord Service is based at Royal Talbot and treats almost 100 patients a year who have suffered a severe spinal cord injury," Ms Shilbury said.

"The majority of these patients have become wheelchair users as a result of their injury and have come to our centre for treatment and rehabilitation.

"The new course provides a custom-designed space where patients can negotiate a range of obstacles and surfaces, so they develop the skills they'll need to manage situations they may face in their wheelchairs once they return home.

"This includes navigating slopes, steps, uneven paths, gates and cobblestones.

"We have previously planned rehabilitation areas for patients recovering from a range of injuries but this course has been built especially for our wheelchair patients. It will give them the best chance to make a safe and successful transition back into the community after their stay with us.

"Wheelchair skills training has always been part of the rehabilitation program for our spinal patients. Our new course brings together the existing training, adding new obstacles to ensure our patients are well prepared for life outside of the rehabilitation setting.

"The course will also form a key part of our coaching program which sees wheelchair users come to Royal Talbot to mentor patients who are new wheelchairs users and provide tips and real expertise," she said.

Ms Shilbury said the course is part of a $100,000 redevelopment at Royal Talbot.

"We've been very fortunate to receive generous support for this project from a range of organisations," she said.

"Funding from the Transport Accident Commission, Major Road Projects Authority and Kew Golf Club has contributed to the construction of the course along with a new pathway, an outdoor area for patients and their families, and an upgrade to the adjacent gardens.

"These works will not only assist patients who are making a transition home after injury but will also benefit the many long-term inpatients receiving care at Royal Talbot.

"Austin Health is very grateful to everyone who has helped make this project a reality.

The Victorian Spinal Cord Service at Austin Health is a state-wide service that treats patients from across Victoria, Tasmania and the New South Wales Riverina.

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