“Money from government is getting tighter and tighter, ultimately we want to make Gurriny a sustainable business … and build our own resources.”
NACCHO member the community-controlled Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service chief executive Sue Andrews said with the board she hoped Healthscope could help develop a model of high-quality, financially sustainable care.
One of Australia’s biggest private healthcare players is deploying some of its top clinicians to Cape York to work with local indigenous health providers, in a move that could pave the way to a larger role in the remote region.
Healthscope will send an Adelaide-based trauma specialist to Yarrabah, south of Cairns, to advise the community on a proposed overhaul of its stretched accident and emergency service.
Meanwhile, a team of nine clinical psychologists will travel to the Djarragun College at nearby Gordonvale — where more than half the students are suspected of having a disability — to carry out formal assessments.
Following an approach to the Cape York Partnership, the organisation founded by indigenous leader Noel Pearson, Healthscope is providing pro-bono help to the two groups.
It has also flagged a willingness to deploy its considerable resources on an ongoing basis.
“We have an enormous list of needs in the health and wellbeing space in Cape York,” Duncan Murray, chief executive of Cape York Partnership, said. “And to have an organisation of Healthscope’s capability and size coming to lend a hand is a terrific result.”
The sharemarket-listed company, which turned over more than $2.3 billion last year, operates 44 private hospitals nationwide; largely concentrated in inner-metropolitan suburbs where household incomes are high.
In contrast, Cape York, where more than half the population identify as indigenous, is one of the nation’s most disadvantaged regions, with high rates of cancer, obesity, alcoholism and preventable injury carving about 20 years off average life expectancy.
Healthscope chief medical officer Michael Coglin said despite the efforts of well-intentioned and skilled providers, health results were sub-optimal. Although well-serviced by healthcare facilities, the region had a shortage of specialist clinicians, he said.
“Well, we’ve got 27,000 of them practising in (our) hospitals,” Dr Coglin said. “What we’re asking, in a respectful way, is how can we bring to the table the things that the indigenous organisations up there have identified as making a difference?”
The community-controlled Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service is in the process of preparing for a possible takeover over of the accident and emergency service at Yarrabah, which is run by Queensland Health. But one of the issues is a high number of non-emergency cases that present after hours, leading its $4 million annual budget to routinely blow out.
Gurriny chief executive Sue Andrews said with the board still undecided about signing the deal, she hoped Healthscope could help develop a model of high-quality, financially sustainable care.
“Money from government is getting tighter and tighter,” Ms Andrews said. “Ultimately we want to make Gurriny a sustainable business … and build our own resources.”
Djarragun College principal Robyn Hughes said the planned visit by a team of clinical psychologists in October was an “enormous opportunity” for the school, which lacked the resources to assess students, including many who appeared to have social and emotional disorders. Without formal assessment, the school had been unable to attract supplementary funding to support learning for those students, Ms Hughes said.