Health services join forces to bring care closer to Country

Friday, November 4, 2022

Nine new nurses will undergo dialysis training in readiness to support the North West community thanks to Central Queensland and Townsville Hospital and Health Services and Clinical Excellence Queensland (CEQ).

The inter-health service training agreement is a key step in the North West Hospital and Health Service’s (NWHHS) establishment of satellite dialysis units in Cloncurry, Doomadgee, and Mornington Island; a move that will see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kidney patients receive care closer to or on Country.

Dr Helen Brown, Deputy Director-General, CEQ, said CEQ had been working with the NWHHS since the start of year. “We have been working with the NWHHS, staff from Townsville Hospital and Health Service (HHS), as well as Biomedical and Technical Services and the Department’s Health Capital Division to see the units set up. Staff recruitment and training is one of the most critical bodies of work to deliver this satellite care, so it’s great to see the training underway,” Dr Brown said.

Trainees (from left) Mark Rasalan, lason Levinge, Estela Vano and Mica Duquil (sitting), with preceptors Renee Elder, Maki Bugna and Hung Tran at Rockhampton Renal Unit

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people tend to be diagnosed with kidney disease at a younger age, and chronic kidney disease is reported at significantly higher levels compared to Non-Indigenous Queenslanders. They are also more likely to need a transplant or life-saving dialysis earlier in their life.

“For some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients from remote communities, if supported dialysis is not available in their community, they need to relocate to a larger centre to be able to access this life-sustaining care, away from community and country. So, the more we can do to bring the care to them, the better their health outcomes will be and their attachment to land is kept strong.”

Nine new graduates and registered nurses have been recruited by NWHHS for the new satellite dialysis units. To bolster their experience in renal health and to help get them ‘on the ground’ sooner, Townsville HHS agreed to train two nurses and Central Queensland HHS four, much to the appreciation of NWHHS, which itself will train three nurses.

“The NWHHS is grateful for the proactive collaboration with Townsville HHS, Central Queensland HHS and CEQ to provide renal dialysis training to nurses who will work throughout the north west region,” Health Service Chief Executive Craig Carey said. “This will continue to increase our workforce to deliver important healthcare and strengthen our commitment to providing access to renal services closer to home for our rural and remote patients.”

Registered Nurse Estela Vano is excited to be gaining these new skills to support patients at Mt Isa Hospital by training at Rockhampton Hospital. “This was a great opportunity for a change, adding to my professional development,” she said. “I’m happy to have the chance to support and embrace our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients through this new service.”

Registered Nurse Renee Elder is one of the preceptors who will assist with training the new nurses and she is keen to share skills. “Renal is a fantastic place to work and it’s such a privilege to be able to help train a new group of people by sharing our knowledge,” she said. “We’re very happy to be able to share our skills with another service.”

Townsville HHS renal nurse unit manager Joleen McArdle said she was pleased the Townsville renal unit could support the delivery of renal satellite dialysis services in rural and remote Queensland.

“Townsville has long been delivering renal dialysis for patients right across North Queensland and providing this training to the new graduates will mean those same patients can access the satellite clinic closer to home from well-trained and experienced staff,” she said.

“We’re passionate about improving access to dialysis for those who suffer from kidney disease, and we look forward to continuing the collaboration with other health services and sharing knowledge to improve outcomes for the First Nations community.”

Townsville HHS Chief Executive Kieran Keyes said bolstering renal services across North Queensland is an essential step in our journey towards delivering the first kidney transplant service outside south-east Queensland. "While the first transplanted kidney is still a few years away, these essential steps ensure we’re working towards delivering renal care closer to home," he said.

Dr Brown said CEQ had been supporting the provision of kidney care through the Queensland Renal Clinical Network for many years, and more recently through Advancing Kidney Care 2026 (AKC2026). “The relationships the staff in the Healthcare Improvement Unit have developed with the clinicians who deliver kidney care meant that we were able to reach out and ask if anyone had capacity to support the trainees,” she said. “Fortunately, they did have the capacity at the right time and were more than willing to do their bit to support the provision of dialysis for remote Queensland communities, which is an honest reflection of their outstanding commitment to healthcare.”

Yubin Park and Sonam Chamu

Dr Brown said both Townsville and Central Queensland had experience in providing satellite dialysis services to rural First Nations communities. “Both HHSs have an understanding of things to consider in providing care in the remote NWHHS communities of Cloncurry, Doomadgee and Mornington Island where these trainees will spend some of their time, so the experience will no doubt be invaluable for them,” she said.

“We value our strong relationships with clinicians and health service executives right across the state, and I think this inter-HHS agreement is another example of what can happen when we work together and keep the patient’s needs front of mind,” Dr Brown said.

For more information on kidney care in Queensland, visit the CEQ website.

Last updated: 4 November 2022