Meet the Blacktown Hospital team saving people’s feet from being amputated

Blacktown Hospital student podiatrist Niti Teli dresses a wound for Kathleen O’Neill.

Foot wounds that fail to heal – often as a result of poor blood and nerve supply – result in an astounding 8,000 preventable amputations every year in Australia.

“Nothing is routine. We’re challenged every day by every patient, and we have to think differently with every case.”

Those words from senior podiatrist Clare McGloin explain why she’s so proud to be part of the small but growing team at Blacktown Hospital’s podiatry department that delivers crucial care.

The department runs a multidisciplinary ‘high risk foot service’, working with specialists in endocrinology, infectious diseases and vascular surgery toward a shared aim: to prevent lower limb amputation.

Senior podiatrists Nada Bechara and Clare McGloin with student Niti Teli.

Patients such as Kathleen O’Neill quickly became aware of the risk she was faced with whilst dealing with a foot ulcer that wouldn’t go away for a year due to nerve damage.

Thankfully, she was referred to the Blacktown Hospital service by her GP and has received fortnightly appointments at the hospital, coupled with weekly visits from a community health nurse.

In just 10 weeks, Kathleen’s wound has nearly healed, giving the Marayong resident some much-needed relief and mobility.

“They are absolutely marvellous here. That’s all I can say. I’ve noticed a definite improvement.”

Kathleen O’Neill
Kathleen’s daughter Ethna Bulloch accompanies her mother to appointments.

The service started with a single full-time podiatrist, then expanded to welcome senior podiatrist Nada Bechara.

Nada is going down to part-time later this year when she becomes the first Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) podiatrist to undertake a PhD.

She’ll be working with Westmead Hospital’s Professor Jenny Gunton to study the impact of vitamin C on healing ulcers, building on previous work with a much larger patient cohort – and has already scored a WSLHD Research and Education Network grant to help begin the research.

The service also notched up another milestone this week in taking on its first undergraduate student.

Niti Teli is in her fourth year of podiatry at Western Sydney University and undertaking a full-time placement for one month; her first since COVID-19 cut short an initial placement in private practice last year.

“The hospital sees more challenging cases with complex medical histories, which is what I want to do in the future,” Niti said.

“The work we do here is actually saving people’s feet. I’ve learned a lot already.”

And Niti got the seal of approval from Kathleen after dressing her wound: “perfect!”

For more information about podiatry and other outpatient services at Blacktown Hospital, visit their website or call (02) 9881 8000.