On 5 June the Statewide Clinical Networks held the Collaborating for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health forum in Brisbane. The forum focused on bringing clinicians from around Queensland, both government and non-government organisations, and consumer representatives to showcase how Queensland Health is partnering and working collaboratively with local Indigenous communities to close the gap and get better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.
Tracey Tellam, Co-Chair of the Statewide Diabetes Clinical Network and Nurse Manager at Ipswich Hospital said the forum was designed to connect health services and aid in the scale and spread of proven models and initiatives. The event was well attended with more than 200 medical, nursing, operational and administrative staff from Queensland Health, non-government agencies and consumer representatives present, as well as people from all over Queensland linked in via the webcast.
A number of Queensland Health departmental speakers, non-government organisations and practising clinicians that are making a cultural change to the way they do business presented at the forum, as well as the Hon Dr Steven Miles, Minister for Health and Minister for Ambulance Services who also released the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Rhematic Heart Disease Action plan 2018-2012.
Acute Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease are long-term chronic diseases which unfortunately still have a significant impact on the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders, including children. These diseases if undiagnosed or managed properly can lead to ongoing damage to the heart, often resulting in the need for heart valve surgery. It can also be fatal. The RHD Action Plan is another step to achieving health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders.
Following the announcement, Mr Patrick Wasiu, a rheumatic heart disease patient born in the Torres Strait, presented the Minister with a ceremonial woven mat. Patrick had had significant input into the Action Plan as did many other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which resonated well with the overall theme of the forum which was all about collaborating to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.
The keynote speaker, Dr Simon Quilty, spoke via video conference from Katherine Hospital where he is Head Physician. Simon presented on Improving hospital care for Indigenous Australians: A remote perspective from Katherine. His presentation focussed around relationship building, cultural appreciation and respect for his patients, and said we needed to learn from Indigenous people and challenge the scientific western paradigms. Tracey said Dr Quilty’s presentation ‘set the tone’ for the rest of the day. "At the end of his presentation there was a palpable buzz of appreciation from the audience."
Frank Grainer, Nurse Practitioner CKD project, Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service said "Simon’s presentation really helped focus attention on the forum’s theme by showcasing how significant cultural understanding and respect are to progress down the road to improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health."
Importantly, attendees reported via evaluation surveys that they would now explore how models of care that were presented could be adapted for use in their facility; a key objective for the event. Other attendees noted that there was still a need for open and honest discussions between different healthcare professions to allow for advances in healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
"A key theme from the day was the need to incorporate Closing the Gap into everyday practice, which I am confident we are well on the path to achieving," Waverley Stanley, facilitator, said.