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Sarah New, Alison Mehrton and Karen Pile are in training at Plenacura Care Centre.

By Matthew Pearce

A new Rockhampton-based company hopes to use cutting-edge technology to make independent living a reality for older people and others with health issues.

Plenacura’s health monitoring devices, including a wearable watch, tablet and arm monitor, are the result of more than four years of research.

CEO and director Simon Lever said the idea for the company began when he first crossed paths with Plenacura co-founder Antony Harrowell in 2017.

“Antony saw his grandmother not feeling well and wanted to help her,” he said.

“At the same time, I was running construction sites and mining camps and couldn’t get the answers I needed in a medical emergency.”

Plenacura’s waterproof wearable device provides round-the-clock monitoring of health data, enabling the elderly, people with disabilities and people with other health conditions such as epilepsy to lead more independent lives.

“We went around and talked to people in the aged care centres, the ambulance service, asking them the biggest problems they have,” Mr Lever said.

“Eight out of 10 calls to people with push buttons were fake according to QAS. People with pendulums around their necks can accidentally set them off…they push them, they sit on them…the ambulance is called and finds them sitting there having a cup of tea.

“The cost incurred for the government and for us as taxpayers is enormous.”

Plenacura’s “Care Centre” will be based on Level 1/Building 33 at CQUniversity’s North Rockhampton campus, with the company taking a three-year lease.

“We made the decision four years ago to base Plenacura in Rockhampton and we have stuck with it, investing a lot of time and money. Antony is based in Melbourne but has always supported us by having the center here at CQ.

Scheduled to go live in about a week, Plenacura is currently in beta testing and has already made a difference in the lives of its users.

“If one of our patients has a medical episode, an alarm goes off and we can pinpoint exactly where they are. From there we call Triple 0… we can tell them where the person is, their ailments, the medications they are taking, the dosages, what they are allergic to…

“When the ambulance shows up, they have a snapshot of their health data, there’s no guessing game even if the patient is unconscious.”

Plenacura’s Safe House feature includes a secure door lock and video doorbell, allowing the care center to quickly grant access in an emergency.

Other system features include geofencing capability for people with dementia, fall alert and panic alarm, meal ordering capability, and one-touch video conferencing.

Plenacura combines the Latin words plena and cura, meaning “holistic health”.

“The incumbents here don’t holistically deliver everything, they just deliver one thing,” Lever said.

“While existing telehealth solutions are limited to one or two markets, Plenacura’s capabilities allow it to be used in markets that other solutions cannot.”

Plenacura’s devices are fully encrypted and, unlike other services, patients own their own medical information, meaning they keep it even if they switch providers.

Plenacura has taken over the entire first floor of the former unused Building 33 at CQU – there are 18 care center posts set up at the moment, with room for more as the business expands, in the aim to eventually employ 85 people in Rockhampton, as well as additional staff in Sydney and Melbourne.

The center will be operational 24 hours a day and staff will work eight-hour shifts.

Dr. Ken O’Brien, a registered mental health social worker, has also registered with Plenacura to provide specialist mental health support services. My local IT specialist is based on the same floor as Plenacura and serves as the company’s support arm.

“They’re all here because they share the vision of what we’re going to do together,” Lever said.